Changes to legal aid for victims of domestic violence
The Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill became law in May 2012 and reforms were introduced in April 2013.
The act makes some changes that have implications for victims of domestic violence and their ability to access legal aid.
What is the definition of domestic violence?
The working definition, as defined by the police, states that domestic violence is ‘any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality’.
In September 2012, this definition was extended to include those aged 16-17 and widened to include ‘coercive control’.
Violence or abuse can be psychological, physical, financial or emotional and must be between individuals who are ‘associated’ with each other under a ‘family attachment’.
How has legal aid changed?
From April 2013, the scope of services covered by legal aid were reduced significantly and legal aid support was withdrawn for the most frequently-seen family disputes.
Instead legal aid funding has been limited to cases involving issues of domestic abuse or violence. Emergency legal aid also remains available if the victim requires an immediate application for non-molestation or occupation orders.
How can I get legal aid for domestic violence?
Crucially, legal aid is only available to domestic abuse victims if the individual can produce evidence of such violence occurring.
So if you’re suffering from violence and need access to legal aid, you’ll need to produce evidence of abuse through one or more of the following:
- A ‘finding of fact’ by the court that you’re a victim of domestic violence
- Conviction or caution against an individual for a domestic abuse offence
- Criminal proceedings for an offence that haven’t concluded
- Medical evidence from a registered practitioner, including your GP
- Written confirmation from a support organisation or social services
- Protective injunctions in place, including non-molestation, occupation and restraining orders
Who do I contact for information?
If you need further help and support, contact our family solicitors in Bristol. We accept legal aid cases and have an experienced domestic violence team who specialise in representing victims of abuse.