The Ministry of Justice have reviewed the evidence criteria needed for women survivors of domestic violence to access Legal Aid through the Domestic Violence Gateway. They have concluded that the criteria need to be widened and have put in place regulations to do just this.
This is a good start to making Legal Aid available to more survivors of domestic violence and represents a huge success for Women’sAid’s joint lobbying effort with Rights of Women and Welsh Women’s Aid, although there is still much more work to be done.
A key aspect of the amended regulations is that a letter from the 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) would be admissible as evidence for a woman being unable to access refuge accommodation (which is part of the current evidence criteria).
Another key aspect of the amended regulation is that a letter from a domestic violence support service where a woman has been referred there by a health professional will be admissible as evidence of domestic violence. The new regulations have gone live and will come into force on Tuesday 22 April 2014. You can read them here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/814/contents/made
Guidance should be available from the Ministry of Justice from 17 April 2014, and will be made available in our Library when this is published.