Archive for ‘News’

Our appeal: what does it mean in practice?

 

We are still waiting for the order in our appeal to be finalised by the Court of Appeal but in the meantime we can confirm what the decision means in practice for women applying for family law legal aid.

The two year time limit on evidence

The list of domestic violence evidence set out in the legal aid regulations is no longer subject to a 24 month time limit. Any of the forms of evidence on the current list should be accepted by the Legal Aid Agency without any time limit as to when it was obtained or when it arose.

Evidence of financial abuse

The Ministry of Justice must add a form or forms of evidence to the list of domestic violence evidence which will allow victim/survivors of financial abuse to apply for family law legal aid. We are working with them to look at what forms of evidence are realistically available for financial abuse and will update you as soon as we have more information.

In the meantime victim/survivors of financial abuse applying for family law legal aid should submit any evidence they are able to obtain to show they have experienced financial abuse and ask the Legal Aid Agency to accept it. If they refuse, their decision can be challenged and you should seek legal advice.

 

We will continue to update on further developments.

If you have any questions about your eligibility for family law legal aid, call our advice line.

 

Evidence tests for domestic violence are unlawful, says Court of Appeal

Our legal challenge of the domestic violence evidence requirements for family law legal aid has been successful. After an appeal hearing in the Court of Appeal on 28 January the two year time limit for evidence has been ruled unlawful and the Government required to amend the legal aid regulations to ensure that women experiencing financial abuse are able to access family law legal aid.

In his judgment handed down in the Court of Appeal this morning Lord Justice Longmore said “Legal aid is one of the hallmarks of a civilised society.”

“I would conclude that … regulation 33 does frustrate the purposes of LASPO in so far as it imposes a requirement that the verification of the domestic violence has to be dates within a period of 24 months before the application for legal aid and, indeed, insofar as it makes no provision for victims of financial abuse.”

Our Director Emma Scott says “For nearly three years we know that the strict evidence requirements for legal aid have cut too many women off from the very family law remedies that could keep them and their children safe. Today’s important judgment means that more women affected by violence will have access to advice and representation in the family courts.”

“The Court of Appeal has accepted our arguments that the fear of a perpetrator does not disappear after 2 years and recognised that forms of violence such as financial abuse are almost impossible for women to evidence. We look forward to working with the Ministry of Justice on amendments to the regulations to ensure that women affected by all forms of domestic violence are able to get legal aid.”

We would like to thank everyone who has supported us in so many ways during this case. Our heartfelt thanks go to our legal team, Sarah Clarke at Public Law Project and Natalie Lieven QC and Zoe Leventhal from Landmark Chambers and to all those who gave evidence in support of case. Our biggest thanks however go to the women who told their stories of the impact the domestic violence evidence requirements. Those stories have made a real difference to other women’s lives.

Read our press release here

Read more about our campaign here

Read the judgment here

40 per cent of women still unable to access family law legal aid

Today we publish further research which shows that still, nearly 3 years after the introduction of the new rules on legal aid, nearly 40% of women affected by domestic violence are unable to access family law legal aid because they do not have the required evidence to prove it.

On Thursday 28 January 2016 our appeal against the decision in our judicial review will be heard in the Court of Appeal. Our case challenges the legal aid regulations which set out the strict list of evidence criteria which is preventing women from receiving vital legal advice and representation in family law proceedings which can protect themselves and their children from further violence.

Emma Scott, Director of Rights of Women, said ‘The government acknowledges that domestic violence is ‘often hidden away behind closed doors, with the victim suffering in silence.’ More than three years on from the devastating cuts to legal aid and despite amendments to the rules, we know that those victims behind those doors do not have the required pieces of paper to prove they have experienced domestic violence.

Our research has consistently shown that nearly half of women affected by domestic violence do not have the required forms of evidence to apply for family law legal aid and that more than half of those women tell us that they take no legal action as a result. This leaves them at risk of further violence and even death. We continue this legal action on behalf of those women in order to hold the government to account on their promise to make family law legal aid available to victims of domestic violence.’

Read our research report here 

Read our press release about Thursday’s hearing here

Read more about our campaign and how you can get involved here

Welcome our new Patron, Pips Taylor

Pips photo cropped 2We are delighted to announce that television and radio presenter, Pips Taylor, has joined us as our new Patron. We first met Pips in 2012 when she was making the BBCThree documentary, ‘I Never Said Yes’ about rape and the criminal justice system.

Pips says “In that film I spoke to women affected by rape and found out just how frightening and traumatic they found the criminal justice system. I worked with one of Rights of Women’s Legal Officers who was able to explain the court process and help me to understand what this might involve for these women. So I know just how incredibly important the legal advice and support that Rights of Women give is.”

That same year Pips helped us launch our publication in partnership with The Havens Your rights, your body, your life. Sexual violence and the law: a young people’s guide at City Hall and has kept in touch ever since.

We look forward to working closely with Pips on some exciting new projects in 2016. Welcome to the team, Pips!

Find out more about Pips and our other Patrons here.

 

Rights of Women is looking for a new Director

December 15th, 2015

After 12 years with Rights of Women and 8 years leading the organisation, our Director, Emma Scott, will be leaving her post in June 2016 and we have begun our search for her successor.

Emma says “Having spent the past year reflecting on Rights of Women’s first 40 years, I am incredibly proud of the work we have done collectively as an organisation and with our partners to ensure women’s access to the law and their legal remedies and to address violence against women. However, the time has come for me to move on to new adventures and to hand over the reigns of this amazing organisation to someone else.”

Chair of our Board of Trustees, Annie Hedge, says “The Board and staff team have spent a great deal of time recently thinking about the challenges ahead for women’s access to justice and how as an organisation we need to address them. We are looking for a new Director who shares our commitment to women’s equality and to providing specialist legal advice and support services for women by women and, importantly, who has the drive and determination to take us forward into our next 40 years.”

Find more information about the role and the recruitment process here.

Posted in News on 12/15/2015 03:59 pm - No comments

Coercive control offence

December 8th, 2015

The Government announced on Saturday that the new criminal offence of coercive control will take effect from 29th December 2015. This means that it will be a criminal offence for a person to continuously or repeatedly behave in a way which controls a person they are in an intimate relationship with, or a family member or ex-partner that they live with. An offence will have been committed only if the behaviour has had a serious effect on the victim and if the abuser ought to have known that their behaviour would have a serious effect on the victim. If found guilty, the abuser could be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison.

The Government has already released statutory guidance to help professionals identify and appropriately address cases of coercive control.

We will be producing a new legal guide on the offence of coercive control, which will be available on our website in the new year.

Posted in News on 12/08/2015 11:52 am - No comments

Ascent partners working together to deliver big social returns

November 17th, 2015

As members of the London Violence against Women and Girls Consortium we have been working together our Ascent project partners to provide advice and counselling services to women and girls affected by violence in all 33 London Boroughs.  An evaluation report funded by Trust for London and recently published by Solace Women’s Aid demonstrates the value of the work being undertaken by the partnership.

The report reveals that:

The report also highlights the importance of BME specialist services and how the partnership has enabled small BME organisations to preserve their services.

You can read the report here (full report) or here (executive summary)

Find out more about Rights of Women’s work as part of the Ascent project here

Posted in News on 11/17/2015 02:52 pm - No comments

Rights of Women Conference 2015 and the launch of Child arrangements and domestic violence: a handbook for women

October 15th, 2015

 

A huge thank you to everyone who attended our conference on Child arrangements and domestic violence: protecting women and children in the Family Court on 8th October 2015.

We started the day by launching our new publication, Child arrangements and domestic violence: a handbook for women, which is an essential and practical resource for women without a lawyer who are involved in child arrangements proceedings. Professionals who support women affected by domestic violence will also find this handbook a useful tool to help women through child arrangements cases.  Order your copy here

Our keynote speaker, Caroline Dinenage MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Women, Equalities and Family Justice congratulated Rights of Women on our 40th anniversary. She thanked all the organisations represented in the audience for the work that they do, assured us that she was “in listening mode” and committed to meeting with us to discuss the issues raised at the conference.

Our patron, Denise Robertson MBE, spoke passionately about the number of women who still contact her for advice on domestic violence and child contact and the fact that “in the family courts, women are routinely left baffled”.  She stressed how important it is for organisations like Rights of Women to provide information and advice, saying “the informed woman is a strong woman”.

Guardian columnist Annalisa Barbieri, also a patron of Rights of Women, chaired a discussion on women’s experiences of family justice. A survivor of domestic violence told us about her “sickening” experience of the Family Court.  She gave examples of important and relevant evidence of the father’s violent behaviour and risk to the family being ignored by the judge.  She, like so many other women, felt demonised and judged before the case had even started: “When I walked into court I immediately felt like I was on the back foot.  I was another woman being unreasonable and causing trouble.”  Clare Laxton of Women’s Aid told us that child arrangements is the number one issue being raised by their members at the moment.  She spoke about the huge lack of understanding of coercive control amongst professionals in the family justice system. She talked about how perpetrators use child arrangement proceedings as a way to continue to exert control over mothers and the myth that the Family Court is biased towards mothers.  Legal aid solicitor and trained IDVA, Sophia Raja, highlighted the lack of risk assessments being carried out in the Family Court, partly due to lack of funding for experts. She also spoke about women without lawyers, particularly migrant women, being taken advantage of because they do not know their rights or the law.

The day ended with a plenary session, reflecting on the workshops held throughout the day.   The workshops focused on mediation, legal aid, women litigants in person and the courts’ approach to child arrangements where there is domestic violence.  The number of challenges and failures raised by delegates was overwhelming.  However, the workshops provided constructive ideas and possible solutions to ensure the safety of women and children in the family justice system.  Rights of Women intends to take these forward in our ongoing policy and campaigning work.

Our Director, Emma Scott, closed the conference by quoting one of the workshop participants: “there is a need for a clear pathway” for survivors of domestic violence involved in child arrangements proceedings.

Posted in News on 10/15/2015 03:02 pm - No comments

Some good news on legal aid and domestic violence!

July 8th, 2015

Following our continuing campaigning with organisations including Women’s Aid, Welsh Women’s Aid and the Law Society, the Government has relaxed one aspect of the domestic violence evidence criteria for family law legal aid, which until now has meant that legal aid which had been granted came to an end when the evidence became more than two years old.

Currently, in order to be granted legal aid for a family law case, the applicant must provide evidence of domestic violence and that evidence must be no more than two years old. Until 17 July if , during the course of the court proceedings, that evidence becomes ‘out of date’ (becomes more than two years old) the Legal Aid Agency would terminate the legal aid certificate. The impact of this rule is that those affected by domestic violence suddenly found themselves without legal advice and representation half way through their case, being forced to represent themselves in court against their perpetrators.

The Government has now amended this rule. Whilst you must still provide evidence that you experienced domestic violence and that evidence must be no more than two years old in order to be granted legal aid, you will no longer lose your legal aid if the evidence you have provided falls ‘out of date’ during the course of the proceedings.

It is important to note that that the new rule will only apply to legal aid applications made after 17 July 2015.

Posted in News on 07/08/2015 03:58 pm - No comments

Join Rights of Women’s Feminist Walks

April 16th, 2015

Back in the 70s Rights of Women led a series of walking tours through the feminist history of London.  Join us to revisit these historical sites!

Visit the home of the Pankhurst family, the publication house for The Vindication of the Rights of Women, Marie Stopes’ birth control clinic and other important sights from feminist history.

The walk is approximately 4 miles and will take approximately 3 hours to complete.  This event open to all.

Start: Exit 2, Euston Station (National Rail, London Overground, Northern Line, Victoria Line)

End: Chancery Lane Station (Central Line)

Suggested donation: £10 per person on the day (please note that we cannot accept payment by card)

To book: http://rowfeministwalk.eventbrite.co.uk

Posted in News on 04/16/2015 03:21 pm - No comments

 
 
 

Contact us at:


Rights of Women,
52-54 Featherstone Street,
London, EC1Y 8RT.
Administration: 020 7251 6575
Email: info@row.org.uk