Evidential requirements for Domestic Violence
Date posted: 4 May 2016
On 25thApril 2016 the Ministry of Justice amended the law in relation to the evidential requirements for domestic violence, following the judgement in R (Rights of Women) v The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice . See also our article: ‘Domestic violence Legal Aid rules are unlawful’.
The changes to Legal Aid in recent years have proved controversial, particularly the requirement that victims of domestic violence have to provide satisfactory proof of the abuse suffered dated within the last twenty four months.
These regulations have been found to have construed too narrowly and rigidly and left many victims who had left their violent partners long ago without the assistance of legal aid. For example if a woman who fled to a refuge after a physical incident four years ago and obtained an injunction against him at that time, but is later tracked down by her abusive ex-partner suddenly seeking contact with his children, would be ineligible for legal advice under Legal Aid.
In response to the Court of Appeal’s findings, the Ministry of Justice have now quashed part of regulation 33 of Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 and substituted a new regulation 33(2). These regulations have extended the time limit for the evidential requirements to sixty months, instead of twenty four, and also included provision for evidence of financial abuse.
The regulations also extend the definition of ‘protective injunction’ to include Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders and Violent Offender Orders as well. These changes come into force on 16th May 2016.
However, these are interim arrangements and we expect that new guidance will be issued by the Legal Aid Agency. The Ministry of Justice also say that they hope these changes address some of the points made by the Court of Appeal, and that they continue to work towards a sustainable long-term solution.
We therefore await further updates in this regard and hope that this means more victims of domestic violence will be able to access the legal assistance they need.
Wilsons are holding an event ‘Family Law and Legal Aid for your community’ on 17th May 2016 at 4pm at our offices. This will explore eligibility for Legal Aid with local groups and organisations. Please click here for further details.