A month after the Court of Appeal upheld a challenge to the government’s changes to legal aid for victims of domestic violence, the Ministry of Justice has announced it is more than doubling the original time limit for evidence.
In The Queen (on the application of Rights of Women) v The Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Justice, the court ruled that regulation 33 of the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 was ‘invalid’ insofar as it ‘requires verifications of domestic violence to be given within a 24-month period before any application for legal aid and does not cater for victims of domestic violence who have suffered from financial abuse’.
In a written statement today, justice minister Shailesh Vara said there were areas ‘where we need further information’, such as the number of individuals who have evidence more than two years old.
The department ‘also needs to more fully appreciate the issues in play’ in cases of financial abuse.
The ministry has begun working with domestic violence support groups, legal representative bodies and colleagues across government ‘to gather data and develop our understanding’ of those issues.
The findings will be used to ‘inform an evidence-based solution’ to the Court of Appeal’s concerns, ‘with the aim of drawing up replacement regulations’.
In the meantime, interim regulations are being laid before parliament today which will see the original time limit for evidence increase from two to five years.
The ministry is also introducing a provision for the assessment of evidence concerning financial abuse.
The interim changes will come into effect on Monday.