Since the changes were introduced by the Government as to the availability of Legal Aid there has been a sharp decline in applications. Legal Aid is still available provided you are able to satisfy a test to demonstrate that you have been subject to domestic or child abuse. Stringent requirements imposed by the Government have been and continue to be the matter of some significant controversy.
One area of controversy was that in proceedings when a final hearing was listed there was a need to resubmit evidence of domestic or child abuse for Legal Aid to continue at a final hearing even though it would be in the same case and that hurdle had been crossed before the Legal Aid application had been made at the beginning.
The problems arose due to the time limited imposed which means any evidence of domestic abuse had to within 24 months of the application. Whilst an application could satisfy that at the start of proceedings, if the case ran on for 6 months for example, then a final hearing with the Legal Aid Agency’s approval was needed for a client to be represented at a final hearing. The 24 month evidence might have been exceeded.
Following representation it seems that common sense has finally prevailed so that for applications from 17 July 2015 victims of domestic violence and child abuse can be more confident about the support that they will receive from start to finish in any given case. Solicitors will no longer need to resubmit evidence of domestic or child abuse for Legal Aid to continue at a final hearing stage in the same case.
In effect, it takes away the risk of Legal Aid being withdrawn because the individuals evidence is considered to be out of date. It has come as welcome news but still there is a long way to go for them to truly open up appropriate access to justice with there to be more clarity relating to support to be given to victims of domestic abuse and child abuse.
Mark Smith is a member of Resolution and is an accredited specialist family lawyer in private law children issues and domestic abuse. Mark can be contacted on 01392 210700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org