Domestic abuse victims are particularly vulnerable during the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown and need more protection than ever, the Law Society of England and Wales warned today.
“Refuge has reported a 25% increase in calls to the national domestic abuse helpline since the lockdown began,” said Law Society president Simon Davis.*
“These figures are deeply concerning and are compounded by a lack of physical access to the courts.
“The government guidance for emergency injunctions presumes victims can find a safe space away from their abuser, fill in an application, provide a valid witness statement and attend a telephone hearing.**
“But social distancing has made it even more difficult for victims to get time away from their abuser to ask for help – leaving many trapped in an increasingly volatile situation.
“The government’s guidance should provide alternatives for those who are locked in with their abuser and offer further support for those who have disabilities or face language issues when access to advice services and physical courts is limited.
“For those who do not qualify for legal aid and cannot afford a solicitor, navigating a telephone hearing unrepresented can prove even more complex than the usual court process.
“Making non-means tested legal aid available for domestic abuse cases would give victims the legal support and access to justice they so desperately need.
“The government should also relax the domestic abuse gateway regulations during the COVID-19 outbreak so that solicitors can certify an individual is a domestic abuse victim and allow them access to legal aid. Many victims rely on evidence from a doctor which is obviously difficult to get in current circumstances.
“The COVID-19 lockdown is an incredibly dangerous time for domestic abuse victims and now more than ever, they must be able to access the help and support they need.
“It is vital that every effort is made to support refuges and advice centres and signpost domestic abuse victims to expert solicitors – giving victims and their children the resources they need to protect themselves and to feel safe during this pandemic.”
Notes to editors
*Refuge has reported a 25% increase in calls to the national domestic abuse helpline since the lockdown began. Read their press release
**Read the government’s guidance for applying for domestic violence injunctions during the COVID-19 outbreak.
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Press office contact: Emma Clarke | 020 8049 3743