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'On behalf of the women who continue to be denied access to justice by the legal aid regulations we are devastated by the outcome of our legal challenge. This decision means that women who remain at risk of violence will continue to be denied access to vital legal advice and representation in family cases. Our most recent research shows that about 40% of women affected by violence do not have the required evidence in order to apply for family law legal aid. We are applying for permission to appeal the decision and remain committed to campaigning on this issue in order to hold the government to account on their promise to continue to make legal aid available to victims of domestic violence.'Law Society President Andrew Caplen expressed his disappointment at the ruling:
'This change, introduced by the Government, is yet another example of the draconian cuts affecting vulnerable clients. The over-strict tests required to bring evidence to satisfy the broader statutory meaning of domestic violence are not what parliament intended.Speaking of the ruling, Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:
Without legal aid women are being forced to face their perpetrators in court without legal representation. Victims of domestic violence should not be excluded from accessing legal aid for family law disputes against an abusive ex partner or relative because of these unrealistic regulations.'
'Restrictions on legal aid have become restrictions on justice for victims of domestic abuse. The Divisional Court decision today leaves in place legal aid reforms that have had a silencing effect on people speaking out about an abusive relationship. When the justice system should support victims of abuse coming forward it is instead putting up a barrier right at the start.
The kinds of evidence currently required for victims to get legal aid are not practical, putting at risk attempts to separate from an abuser and safeguard children. Obtaining the evidence in cases of emotional or financial abuse can be almost impossible. Nine in ten advisers we surveyed had helped someone with financial abuse, such as controlling their day to day spending or forcing them into debt. The Government has made an encouraging commitment to tackling all forms of domestic abuse that it must now see through by making legal aid available to all of these victims.'
Explains the changes to the way courts deal with domestic violence