Ruling due over legal aid changes in domestic violence cases


The Court of Appeal is ruling on the legality of Government changes to the rules for obtaining legal aid in domestic violence cases.

Women's rights campaigners argue large numbers of victims are unlawfully being excluded from obtaining funding because of the changes.

And women are unfairly being forced to "face their abuser in court" without legal representation.

The campaign group Rights of Women (ROW) is appealing against a High Court ruling by Lord Justice Fulford and Mrs Justice Lang.

The judges held that Justice Secretary Chris Grayling acted within his powers when he introduced the changes by making regulation 33 of the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012.

Lord Justice Fulford said the court could not ''enter the political arena'' and substitute its views for those of Parliament.

The rule changes, made in April 2013, set out mandatory evidence requirements for a victim who is seeking legal aid for a private family law case.

ROW lawyers say large numbers of victims are being turned away ''at the first hurdle'' because they have no permissible evidence, and are left with the choice of paying a solicitor privately - often resulting in them going into debt - representing themselves, or doing nothing and continuing to be at risk.

The scope of their entitlement is further affected by the imposition of a limitation period of 24 months on the evidence that will be accepted, it claims.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ''This Government is exceptionally clear that victims of domestic violence should get legal aid wherever they need it to help break free from the abusive relationship.''

The spokesman said changes had been made twice to make it easier for people to get the evidence they need to claim legal aid.