Women’s Aid responds to Ministry of Justice’s changes to legal aid rules for survivors of domestic abuse
Monday 4th December 2017
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:
“We are pleased that the Ministry of Justice will make much-needed changes to legal aid rules for victims of domestic abuse, which we hope will ensure survivors can access justice and help transform their experience of the family courts; something that Women’s Aid, in partnership with the Rights of Women and Welsh Women’s Aid, has long-campaigned for.
“For far too long, survivors of domestic abuse have not been able to access legal aid because the evidence needed to support an application was too difficult to obtain. Many survivors have never seen a criminal case or conviction against the perpetrator, or will not have access to ‘proof’ within the current time-limit, but are still living with the serious and life-long impacts of domestic abuse. As a consequence, survivors have either been denied access to justice or had to represent themselves in courts which has resulted in dangerous situations where abusive ex-partners could cross-examine the victim in the family court, effectively using the court room to continue the abuse. Therefore, we welcome news that the MoJ will be changing evidence requirements to reflect survivors’ lived experience of domestic abuse, and make access to legal aid a reality for all domestic abuse victims.
“The legal aid rules will be brought in alongside new guidance, training and protocols for the family courts, to help ensure that vulnerable witnesses can access the special protection measures they need when in court. We are pleased that following our campaigning these changes will be implemented, which are urgently needed to make the family courts safer for survivors of domestic abuse. The government’s forthcoming landmark Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make further changes to the criminal justice system so that survivors of domestic abuse can be safe in the knowledge that they will be listened to, believed and supported in their access to justice. But alongside the new law the government must provide a cast-iron guarantee to secure the future of domestic abuse services, especially life-saving refuges, so that all women can safely escape domestic abuse and be supported in her recovery.”
For further information, please contact the Women’s Aid press office: [email protected]