Domestic abuse victims needing protection will be spared the ordeal of multiple court hearings under a pilot starting this spring, a minister has revealed.

Justice minister Laura Farris, who is also a minister at the Home Office, said the pilot will hopefully ‘form a new landscape’ for dealing with domestic abuse and the new domestic abuse protection orders, announced a year ago, will become a ‘really important access to justice tool’ for victims.

Whether it be an occupancy or non-molestation order that is needed, victims ‘can go to the magistrates’ court or family court and get all the stuff they might normally want to get in a domestic abuse case in one order at one hearing, rather than having to go to multiple hearings’, Farris said.

Laura Farris MP

Farris: New orders a ‘really important access to justice tool’ for victims


Farris was speaking at a panel event yesterday organised by the all-party parliamentary group on access to justice to discuss violence against women, where the impact of legal aid cuts was raised.

Human rights lawyer Baroness Kennedy (Helena Kennedy KC), who chaired yesterday's discussion in parliament, said the number of family lawyers doing legal aid work had deteriorated as a result of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. ‘They’re not choosing to do that because they cannot survive, they cannot get a mortgage, they cannot live. Most of them are women and they cannot survive on the money that’s available.’

Solicitor Jenny Beck, founding director of Beck Fitzgerald, said the ‘entirely unmanageable’ legal aid rates needed to be addressed. The ‘paucity of the fixed fee undermines women’s safety’ and fees needed to properly reflect the cost of working with traumatised women, Beck said.

Family is one of the 11 contracted areas of law that the Ministry of Justice is looking at as part of its review to improve the long-term sustainability of the civil legal aid system. The Law Society is currently asking family lawyers to help lay bare the economic reality of doing legal aid work to show the government why more cash is needed to save the fragile sector.