Domestic abuse complainants no longer need to see their doctor in person to obtain evidence required for their legal aid application under changes that have come into force this week. The Law Society welcomed the rule change but urged the government to go further to support people needing legal aid.

The Ministry of Justice announced last October that legal aid rules would be changed to allow doctors to submit letters of evidence for legal aid applications following a video or telephone consultation. The change came into force on Wednesday.

A doctor writing up a patient's medical records

Doctors can now submit letters of evidence following a video or telephone consultation

Source: iStock

Law Society president Lubna Shuja said: ‘Victims used to have to produce a letter from a health professional, but it would only be accepted by the Legal Aid Agency if the meeting had been face-to-face, at a time where medical appointments are increasingly online. This change to legal aid recognises the additional hurdle created by the requirement for evidence of face-to-face medical appointments.’

While Chancery Lane welcomed the change, Shuja called on the government to go further to ensure legal aid is available to protect victims of abuse.

‘The Domestic Abuse Act introduced a definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that it can be emotional, controlling or coercive abuse as well as physical violence. The current Domestic Abuse Gateway fails to reflect this wider definition and does not include ways in which emotional, controlling or coercive abuse can be recognised. This should be rectified,’ she said.

‘Experienced domestic abuse solicitors are able to recognise coercive and controlling behaviour and should be authorised to confirm a client is a victim of any kind of domestic violence for the purpose of obtaining legal aid.’


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