Legal Changes to Domestic Violence Fees Welcomed
From the 22nd April this year, major changes will be made to legal fees in England & Wales. The £75 fee for domestic violence injunctions will be scrapped
. In addition to this, new rules will apply to what evidence you can provide to prove you have been a victim of domestic violence.
New Evidence Will Be Accepted
April will see the introduction of new regulations that widen the evidence criteria
for those seeking legal aid. To make a claim for legal aid in regards to domestic violence the court requires that you bring some kind of proof. Evidence of police bail will now be accepted as proof that you are a victim of domestic violence.
A domestic violence protection order (DVPO), evidence of a referral to a domestic violence support
service from a health professional, and evidence of not being able to access refuge accommodation can now be used by a victim to apply for domestic violence legal aid
Women's Charity Survey Highlights Problems
Women's Aid, Rights of Women and Welsh Women's Aid have praised the changes, saying they allow women to access the legal support entitled to them. According to a survey carried out by the charities, 50% of women were not able to access legal aid
because they don't have the right evidence.
The charities also highlighted a number of issues in their survey that concerned them, including:
- Lack of access to legal aid preventing women from leaving abusive relationships, especially if it meant getting a divorce
- Women feeling unable to represent themselves in court
- Women worrying that they may lose their children
The survey went on to say that, women were facing significant debt
because they could not access legal aid and feared they may lose their children because of this. The new legal aid changes will hopefully encourage more women to leave their abusive partners knowing that the law will protect them at any cost.
Helen Doolan, a solicitor with Simpson Millar LLP's family law department believes this is a step in the right direction but the changes still do not go far enough:
"Dealing with these cases on a daily basis, we appreciate how many women are still not able to access appropriate legal advice
as whilst they have undoubtedly suffered domestic violence they fall short of the high bar of evidential standards of the Legal Aid Agency.
In addition there is a clear lack of understanding of the importance of obtaining this information from health professionals
who time and time again let down women by failing to provide this information or charging substantial fees for providing the evidence.
At Simpson Millar LLP we are committed to continuing to campaign on this injustice
in the hope further amendments will be made in the future."