More support for victims of domestic abuse
Victims of domestic abuse are to get more support in taking abusive former partners to court, the Ministry of Justice has announced. Previously if victims wanted the court to deal with the abuser they had to make sure evidence of abuse was brought before the family court within 5 years of the incident taking place. The MOJ is now abolishing this 5 year rule and widening the range of documents accepted as evidence of abuse so that statements from domestic violence support organisations and housing support officers will now also be accepted. These changes will come into effect from January 2018.
The changes have been announced following a review of the evidence requirements set out in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO 2012). Legal Aid is available to people involved in private family disputes if they are victims, or are at risk of becoming victims, of domestic violence or child abuse. To qualify, applicants must provide objective evidence of the abuse while their case is also subject to means and merits tests.
The government has also pledged to bring forward a landmark Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, which aims to ensure that no stone is left unturned in protecting and supporting victims and children. Justice Minister Dominic Raab said: “We have listened to victims’ groups and carefully reviewed the criteria for legal aid for victims of domestic abuse in family cases. These changes make sure that vulnerable women and children get legal support, so their voice is properly heard in court.”
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.