Minister for Justice, Dominic Raab ignored an MP’s request to allow victims of domestic violence the opportunity to claim legal aid retrospectively while the new measures have yet to come into force.
The tense exchange took place during a discussion in the House of Commons on 5th December, in which concerned MPs grilled the Justice Minister on the government’s efforts to help litigants in person.
Gloria De Piero, who is Shadow Justice Minister, asked Dominic Raab whether the government would consider allowing victims of domestic violence who had gone through or are going through the family courts and unable to access legal aid under the current restrictions, the chance to recoup their costs once measures to open up access to legal aid were implemented in the new year.
Frustrated by the government’s efforts to address the issue, De Piero takes a swipe at Raab:
“I note the Justice Secretary is advertising for a second speechwriter at a rate of £70,000. As there is cash to spare, will he commit to ensuring that domestic violence victims who seek legal aid, as of yesterday’s announcement, will be able to claim retrospectively under the new criteria?”
Sidestepping the question entirely, The Justice Minister tells De Piero:
“We will be laying the statutory instrument shortly and I think, beneath the political point-scoring, the hon. Lady welcomed it. It will make it easier to apply for legal aid in family cases where there has been a victim of domestic abuse. More broadly, wider personal support units provide trained volunteers who give free independent assistance to people facing proceedings in the family sphere and beyond. There are 20 centres in 16 cities. I hope she would welcome that.”
The discussion also highlights the government’s latest attempts at helping litigants in person (LIPs), including its Litigant in Person Support Strategy, which is designed to offer LIPs support, information, and either free or low cost legal advice. We would be interested to hear from anyone who has used this service.