Since the Ministry of Justice started cutting legal aid, many people who need help found themselves left outside in the cold to fend for themselves. Women who have suffered domestic violence have gone to a solicitors and discovered that, even though they are financially eligible, they do not have the appropriate ‘evidence’ of their abuse to qualify for free legal representation.
One victim told women’s charity Rights of Women, whose survey of domestic violence victims trying to access legal aid was published this morning:
“The law leaves me in a situation where my ex can come round when he wants to – text me, phone me – and as long as he doesn’t swear, make threats or hit me I can’t stop him. I and my kids are constantly frightened, living in lock down conditions and there is nothing we can do. It’s hard to keep going. I have been and am suicidal. I can’t cope. But there is no help.”
“I’m in a legal black hole. I don’t qualify for legal aid and cannot afford a solicitor. So after years of sexual and emotional abuse I am left do deal with my son’s father alone. How can this be right? Where do I go?”
Today the high court will hear a legal challenge to the rules, as Chris Grayling faces his latest judicial review – just one week after losing the last one. With any luck, they will find it unlawful. But even if they do not, the evidence test needs to be drastically widened so that no woman who needs legal help against her abuser is denied it.
Bhatia Best continues to offer legal aid wherever it is available after the cuts imposed from 1 April 2013. Where legal aid is not available, we offer a menu of competitive fixed fees.