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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

28 AUG 2012

Making the case for legal aid funding for victims/survivors of domestic violence

Dr Aisha K Gill

Reader in Criminology, University of Roehampton, London:

The British legal system can be a minefield for women who have experienced domestic violence. Currently, their options for accessing legal services are limited to either self-funding their case or utilizing an underfunded means tested Legal Aid program. This problem is exacerbated by the relative lack of low-cost or free alternatives available to women. To date, little research has been conducted on domestic violence victims’ use of, and access to, Legal Aid in the UK. However, providing access to justice for women who have experienced gender-based violence has a wide array benefits, not least among them access to justice for their children. This paper highlights the consequences of denying women Legal Aid through focusing on the experiences of female victims of domestic violence. Commissioned by the National Federation of Women’s Institute it has four research objectives linked to issues of access and process within the country’s legal services:

  1. The types of issues women need legal help with after experiencing violence.
  2. Whether the initial eligibility criteria set out in the proposed Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill accurately reflects women’s experiences. (The Bill has now been given Royal Assent).
  3. Whether the current proposal to restrict the timeframe for victims to provide evidence of eligibility for Legal Aid to 2 years will adequately meet women’s needs and experiences.
  4. The value women place on being able to access legal aid after experiencing violence and the consequences of not being able to access this form of support.

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