Legal aid changes to make it easier for domestic abuse victims to access legal aid may have contributed to a record number of people seeking help, according to latest official family justice statistics.
Ministry of Justice figures for July to September show that 7,876 applications were made for a domestic violence remedy order, up 23% on the same period last year and the highest quarterly figure since 2009 when statistics were first published. There were 8,839 domestic violence orders, up 18% from last year and also a record high.
The bulk of applications and orders were for non-molestation. Occupation applications and orders were also up.
The government said the increases may be linked to legislative changes introduced in January 2018.
Harsh evidence tests to qualify for legal aid were removed after campaign group Rights of Women, with the support of the Law Society, successfully fought rules introduced in April 2013 that required victims to provide a prescribed form of evidence to apply for family law legal aid.
The bulletin states: 'These changes have made it easier for victims, or those at risk, of domestic abuse to obtain and provide the evidence required to access legal aid, and in doing so, this may have impacted on the number of domestic violence applications and orders,' the bullet states.
Family lawyers will be hoping to see the Domestic Abuse Bill, which has fallen twice this autumn, return in the Queen's speech on Thursday. The Conservative Party pledged in its election manifesto that it would pass the bill as well as pilot integrated domestic abuse courts that address criminal and family matters in parallel.