A national firm that says it feels duty bound to help people through the Covid-19 pandemic will offer free advice to victims of domestic abuse.
National firm Irwin Mitchell said the country’s largest domestic abuse charity, Refuge, reported a 700% increase in calls in one day after lockdown measures were introduced. Urgent care proceedings in the family courts have also increased. As a result, the firm is offering a free consultation to those affected by domestic abuse for as long as the crisis lasts.
Toby Hales, a family law partner, said: ‘As a firm we felt duty bound to put our expertise to good use in helping people to get through this crisis. For victims, there is often little knowledge of where to turn. If the situation falls short of one in which the police are prepared to become actively involved, the only way for such a situation to be resolved is through family courts.
‘For those who qualify financially, fortunately legal aid remains available to provide access to justice, but for those who do not the legal system can be an expensive and bewildering process.’
The firm will provide a free 20-minute consultation. Callers may be signposted to other legal aid firms if necessary or instruct Irwin Mitchell, but will be under no obligation.
Hales said: ‘We can try and help assess the situation from a professional point of view and try to provide a safe avenue for people affected whether that is one that requires the police to get involved or something that can be resolved by family lawyers, and will advise on the availability of legal aid and other support services. We’ll be helping to obtain protection from the courts and, where necessary, to get the court process started to resolve any issues involving children.’
Dame Vera Baird, the Victims' Commissioner, said people were working day and night to secure ways of making domestic abuse victims safe during the lockdown. Rights of Women, an organisation that helps women through the law, has published new guidance on remote hearings, reminding people that the family court is still hearing emergency applications for non-molestation and occupation orders.
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.