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Removal of harsh evidence tests will help domestic violence victims

23 February 2017

The removal of a five-year time limit on evidence of abuse which prevents vulnerable victims of domestic violence from obtaining legal aid for court hearings was today welcomed by the Law Society of England and Wales.

A Law Society spokesperson said: “Legal aid is a lifeline for those who have suffered abuse. It is often the only way someone can bring their case before the courts.

"Relaxing time and evidence restrictions so more victims of domestic violence can get legal aid for court hearings will be a welcome relief for many people. Today’s positive decision is the end result of work we and other organisations have been doing with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for many months.

“Meanwhile, the government’s decision to protect victims of domestic violence from being cross-examined by their abuser in family court is another welcome change.

“The family court process should help the truth come out, it should not provide a platform for a perpetrator to compound their abuse.

“In the family courts, the victim of abuse is a party to the case. They have to engage with the abuser throughout the proceedings and we think there is more work to be done to ensure that the protection for victims is adequate.

“We look forward to working with the government so that the new measures achieve the aim we all have of protecting victims of abuse.”

The Law Society was responding to a MoJ decision to remove harsh time limits and admit fresh categories of evidence to qualify for legal aid.

The spokesperson added: “These changes will help domestic violence victims who have previously been deprived of valuable legal advice, support and representation to access essential family law remedies.”

Notes to editors

Rules on evidence criteria were introduced by the government as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Law Society press office | +44 (0)20 3189 1880