In a ground breaking judgment, the Court of Appeal has ruled that the current restrictions to legal aid for survivors of domestic abuse are unlawful and has allowed an appeal to look at the restrictions in more detail.
Devastating cuts to legal aid have been a worrying trend within child protection and the family justice system for a while, so this judgment will offer some comfort in an area of family justice which has suffered considerably as a result of the restrictions.
The judgment which was published on 18th February, 2016, confirms that Regulation 33, which sets down a list of documents victims of domestic violence have to produce in order to qualify for legal aid, is effectively restricting access to justice. Many victims of domestic violence simply cannot gather the evidence required to access legal aid for their cases. This is in part due to the nature of domestic violence – victims often conceal their injuries and feel too frightened to admit themselves to hospital or alert authorities when they are attacked, as this could incite more violence from their partners. Abuse also leaves deep psychological wounds, which often leave victims unable to seek help, sometimes for years.
The Public Law Project, who brought the case on behalf of Rights Of Women, has an excellent summary of the judgment on their website.