The Law Society has called for legal aid to be reintroduced for early advice in all family cases after the Domestic Abuse Bill received Royal assent yesterday.
The Domestic Abuse Act prevents an alleged perpetrator from directly cross-examining the victim in the family and civil courts and will provide better access to special measures in court to prevent intimidation.
Chancery Lane said the act is a ‘step in the right direction’ but pointed out that there is insufficient support for victims to pursue a legal case.
Latest Ministry of Justice statistics reveal that the family courts saw a decrease in most case types, such as adoption, financial remedy, matrimonial and public law cases, but a rise in domestic violence cases. The department said lockdown ‘brought warnings about an increase in domestic violence, with victims having less opportunity to leave abusive partners’.
Society president I. Stephanie Boyce: ‘The increased risk to the safety of women and children during this time makes it essential that routes to support and legal recourse are kept as open as possible. This is why we believe that the criteria for legal aid should be urgently revised to ensure that victims of domestic abuse can access legal advice without having their means assessed.’
Boyce called for legal aid to be reintroduced for early advice in all family cases to ensure victims of abuse are identified at an early stage and helped to get access to justice to protect them and their children. ‘If people cannot access advice or protect their rights, then those rights effectively do not exist,’ she added.