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Monday, 04 December 2017

Domestic violence victims will have legal aid limitations eased, ministry says

Written by Hayden Smith

Legal aid restrictions will be eased for victims of domestic violence under Government reforms.

The Ministry of Justice announced changes to give more support to those taking abusive former partners to court in family proceedings.

A five-year time limit on abuse evidence will be scrapped, while the range of documents accepted as evidence will be widened.

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 and children get legal support, so their voice is properly heard in court."

Currently, legal aid is available to people involved in private family disputes if they are victims, or are at risk of becoming victims of domestic violence or child abuse.

Applicants must provide objective evidence of abuse within the last five years to qualify.

Documentation that can be accepted as evidence of abuse must come from social services, law enforcement and medical professionals.

The time limit will be removed under changes coming into force from January, while statements from domestic violence support organisations and housing support officers will become eligible to be used as evidence in applications.

The Legal Aid Agency has existing powers to withdraw funding in the event that evidence of domestic violence is proven to be false.

Joe Egan, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, welcomed the announcement

He said: "The Government's decision will make it easier for victims to provide evidence and to qualify for legal aid.

"The five-year time limit causes difficulties for victims who were abused more than five years ago but have no recent documents to prove this.

"The forms of evidence required have also been very restrictive.

"Broadening the types of evidence that can be accepted to include statements from domestic violence support organisations and housing support officers will remove many of the difficulties faced by victims."

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