A piece in yesterday’s Guardian. Extracts:
Time limits preventing victims of domestic violence from obtaining legal aid for court hearings will be scrapped from January, the Ministry of Justice has announced.
The heavily criticised restrictions, which have resulted in large numbers of women confronting abusive ex-partners without representation, will also be relaxed to accept evidence from victim support organisations. [J4MB emphasis – in plain English, radical feminist organizations such as Women’s Aid and Refuge.]
The changes deliver on signals that the system would be reformed given by the MoJ and revealed by the Guardian earlier this year.
Confirming the new guidelines for the Legal Aid Agency, the justice minister, Dominic Raab, said: “We have listened to victims’ groups and carefully reviewed the criteria for legal aid for victims of domestic abuse in family cases.
“These changes make sure that vulnerable women [J4MB emphasis] and children get legal support so their voice is properly heard in court.”
Legal aid has usually been available to victims of domestic violence and child abuse, or those deemed at risk, as long as they could provide evidence of abuse within the past five years.
Removal of the five-year limit and admission of fresh categories of evidence will help large numbers of women and some men [J4MB emphasis] who have been deprived of legal advice and representation in family court disputes over custody and contact with children…
Statements from domestic violence support organisations and housing support officers will in future be accepted as evidence of past abuse, [J4MB emphasis] as well as those from social services, [J4MB: Virulently anti-male organizations] law enforcement agencies and medical professionals.
Earlier this year the government announced a £17m fund to support 41 projects across the country to tackle violence against women and girls. [J4MB emphasis]
Steve Hynes, the director of the Legal Action Group who has campaigned against legal aid cuts, welcomed the change: “It’s taken a long time because of the general election and other delays. I’m very pleased they have made the announcement.
“They realised it’s a priority. It wasn’t working. Women [J4MB emphasis] who experienced domestic violence were not qualifying [for representation]. The amount of civil legal aid granted has fallen by 80% since Laspo was introduced.”…
Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women’s Equality party, said:“The Ministry of Justice’s decision to lift these damaging restrictions on legal aid is welcome – and long overdue.
“Too many women [J4MB emphasis] have been denied justice over the last seven years as a result of the government’s short-sighted cuts.”