Legal Aid Agency confirms change in domestic violence requirement

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As previously reported in our news, the case of R (Rights of Women) v The Secretary of State for Justice and the Lord Chancellor [2016] saw the Court of Appeal rule that regulation 33 of the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 was invalid due to the fact it ‘requires verifications of domestic violence to be given within a 24-month period before any application for legal aid and does not cater for victims of domestic violence who have suffered from financial abuse.’

The decision was welcomed by many organisations including the Law Society who backed the challenge to the regulations. Rights of Women director Emma Scott commented, “The Court of Appeal has accepted our arguments that the fear of a perpetrator does not disappear after 2 years and recognised that forms of violence such as financial abuse are almost impossible for women to evidence. We look forward to working with the Ministry of Justice on amendments to the regulations to ensure that women affected by all forms of domestic violence are able to get legal aid.”

The Legal Aid Agency have now issued a statement that they are working on amended regulations and meanwhile providers are able to make determinations to grant controlled work or to make an application for a legal aid certificate in relation to civil legal services where the required documentary evidence is older than 24 months. However, the evidence will still need to be in the form prescribed in regulation 33.

The agency also revealed plans to amend regulations to make provision for evidence of financial abuse in order to help more women who are in controlling, abusive relationships that before were prevented from legal aid because of the evidence requirement. Updated guidance will be issued when the regulations are amended.

Read the Legal Aid Agency challenge in domestic violence requirement (PDF file format).

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