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Legal aid changes for victims of domestic violence

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

As it currently stands, victims of domestic violence must produce certain evidence of domestic abuse that took place within the last 5 years as one of the requirements for legal aid in private family court proceedings. The 5-year time limit has led to many victims of domestic violence having to confront abusive ex-partners in court without legal representation.

The Ministry of Justice has recently announced that as of January 2018, the 5-year time limit will be scrapped and the range of documents accepted as evidence of abuse will be widened. The accepted evidence will include statements from domestic violence support organisations and housing support officers. We await the amended regulations which will provide further details of the evidence that will be accepted.

The changes have been made as a result of a review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2012 and mean that more victims of domestic violence will be eligible for legal aid in private family court proceedings. However, as well as providing prescribed evidence of domestic abuse, victims will also still have to undergo a means and merits assessment to assess whether they are eligible for legal aid.