LAPG’s call to amend the domestic violence evidence test

LAPG have called for amendments to the domestic violence evidence test for family law legal aid in its manifesto for legal aid: “over 50% of victims who urgently need help are excluded from obtaining advice because either the definition or the evidence required are insurmountable hurdles for them”.

A copy of the manifesto can be found on the LAPG website.

Justice Select Committee: Failure to ensure victims of domestic violence can access legal aid means the Government is not achieving its declared objectives

On 12th March, the Justice Select Committee published recommendations following its inquiry into the impact of changes to civil legal aid under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.  The select committee considered whether victims of domestic violence are able to satisfy the eligibility and evidential requirements for a successful legal aid application:

“We note with concern the evidence from the Rights of Women survey suggesting 39% of women who were victims of domestic violence had none of the forms of evidence required to qualify for legal aid. Any failure to ensure that victims of domestic violence can access legal aid means the Government is not achieving its declared objectives…

We welcome the Ministry of Justice’s commitment to keeping the types of evidence required to qualify for the domestic violence gateway under review and recommend the introduction of an additional ‘catch-all’ clause giving the Legal Aid Agency discretion to grant legal aid to a victim of domestic violence who does not fit within the current criteria. We also wish to see regular publication of figures on grants of legal aid made on the grounds of domestic violence.”

“We recommend Regulation 33 of the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 be amended to give the Legal Aid Agency discretion to allow evidence of domestic violence from more than 24 months prior to the date of the application in cases where the person who has suffered the violence would be materially disadvantaged by having to face the perpetrator of the violence in court. We make this recommendation in recognition of the potential artificiality of the 24 month time limit given the ongoing nature of familial relations that can be the subject of court proceedings and the lasting impact domestic abuse can have on victims.”

A full copy of the report is available here

Court deals blow to rights of domestic violence survivors’ to access justice

Despite clear evidence that the domestic violence evidence criteria for family law legal aid are restricting access to family law legal aid, the Divisional Court has dismissed our legal challenge of the legal aid regulations, finding that the Secretary of State for Justice acted within his powers .

Emma Scott, Director of Rights of Women, said “On behalf of the women who continue to be denied access to justice by the legal aid regulations we are devastated by the outcome of our legal challenge. This decision means that women who remain at risk of violence will continue to be denied access to vital legal advice and representation in family cases. Our most recent research shows that about 40% of women affected by violence do not have the required evidence in order to apply for family law legal aid. We are applying for permission to appeal this decision and remain committed to campaigning on this issue in order to hold the government to account on their promise to continue to make legal aid available to victims of domestic violence.”

We would like to thank Sarah Clarke and the Public Law Project and Nathalie Lieven QC and Zoe Leventhall of Landmark Chambers for their expert legal advice and representation and their commitment to this case. We would also like to thank the Law Society, without whose support we would not have been able to bring this case to court. We would also like to thank all those who supported the case in providing evidence of the devastating impact the legal aid regulations are having and to those who have supported us during this campaign in so many other ways.

Read our press release on today’s judgement here

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

 

 

Looking for a new challenge in 2015?

 

We are currently recruiting qualified women* solicitors or barristers with experience of family, criminal and immigration and asylum law to deliver our vital legal services for women.

We have vacancies for a Legal Officer or Senior Legal Officer as well as for Sessional Legal Officers and volunteer legal advisers to deliver our services and projects to increase women’s access to the law and their legal rights.

Find out more about these opportunities to work with us here

*Occupational Requirement (Equality Act 2010, Schedule 9 Part I) applies

 

Read our latest research on the impact of the legal cuts

 

Today the High Court will hear our legal challenge of the lawfulness of Government changes to legal aid for domestic violence victims and we publish the latest in our research on the impact of the legal aid cuts on women.

Our report, published today with Women’s Aid Federation England and Welsh Women’s Aid, shows that despite changes to the list of evidence introduced in April 2014, nearly 40% of women affected by violence do not have the required forms of evidence and are faced with a stark choice: pay a solicitor privately often causing them to get into debt; represent themselves and face their perpetrator in court; or do nothing and continue to be at risk of violence.

Nearly 60% of women responding to the survey said that they took no legal action as a direct result of not being eligible for legal aid. The rules deny access to safety and justice to the very women the Government sought to protect from the removal of family law from the scope of legal aid.

Read our report Evidencing domestic violence: reviewing the amended regulations

Help close the protection gap for women seeking asylum

 

As a signatory to Asylum Aid’s Charter for the Rights of Women Seeking Asylum we want to ask for your help in closing the protection gap for women seeking asylum.

Take action in the new campaign which starts today!

In the past few months new initiatives have come into play for women facing rape and violence at home and abroad. But women seeking asylum are falling through a protection gap.

William Hague and Angelina Jolie signed off an international agreement on how a woman raped during a civil war should be supported. But if that woman comes to the UK to seek protection she isn’t guaranteed the same support. There is a glaring hypocrisy in how we treat women and girls who seek protection in the UK; they continue to be missed out of government policies on violence against women.

We believe that no woman seeking asylum should have to tell her story:

  • in front of her children
  • to a male interviewer or interpreter if she is not comfortable with this
  • to someone who doesn’t understand how trauma affects memory
  • without being given counselling
  • without information about her rights as a woman in the asylum system

We believe that five particular measures in Hague and Jolies’s international agreement are also vitally important for women seeking asylum in the UK.

Let’s tell Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to use her powers to put these measures in place in the asylum system now:

  •  Provide childcare during screening and asylum interview
  •      Guarantee that women can have a female interviewer and interpreter if they choose
  •      Training for interviewers and interpreters on sexual violence, trauma and memory
  •      Counselling and support for trauma for women who have experienced gender-based harm
  •      Information about the asylum process, rights and entitlements specific to women seeking asylum

Take action now to close the Protection Gap for women seeking asylum!

Visit www.asylumaid.org.uk/protectiongap to find out how you can help.

 

Demonstrate against the legal aid cuts – Friday 12 December

 

On Friday 12 December the High Court will hear our legal challenge against the domestic violence gateways for family law legal aid.

Join us at a demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand, London WC2A 2LL at 9.30am to help us raise awareness of the impact the legal aid cuts are having on women affected by violence.

Bring banners, whistles, colleagues and friends!

If you can’t be there, follow events on the day on Twitter at the #savelegalaid #ibelieveher. You can take your own jelfie in support of the campaign. Print out this sign and take a selfie or a team photo and upload it to Twitter to join the campaign.

Find out more about the case and our campaign here

Please circulate this through your networks. You can download an invitation here

We look forward to seeing you there and thank you for your support of our campaign on this vital issue for women.

Help us evaluate our new Athena Project

We are looking for a consultant to work with us to evaluate our new Athena Project.

As we introduce new ways of delivering immigration law advice and support to vulnerable migrant women, you will support us in developing and implementing our evaluation framework and data collection processes through to a final report on the key findings of the evaluation.

More information about the evaluation and the Athena Project can be found in our Athena evaluation tender invitation.

This evaluation is being funded by two of our funders, Comic Relief and Trust for London.

Living in limbo: the impact of the domestic violence gateway

 

“I want to apply for a divorce but have been told it will be complex so I need a solicitor but I cannot afford to get one. I want to sort out child contact as my kids are at risk from my husband, but cannot afford to do that…I am living in limbo because I cannot afford to do anything about it.”

Read more of this article on the impact of the legal aid changes and the domestic violence gateway on Legal Voices’ blog.

Volunteer with us

 

Rights of Women are recruiting volunteer legal advisors!

Our recent survey shows that 47% of women who experience domestic violence do nothing to resolve their legal issues as a result of not being eligible for Legal Aid. Help these women through the law by volunteering on our advice lines.

We are currently seeking qualified women solicitor and barrister volunteers to provide legal advice on our family law and immigration law advice lines.

Our free telephone advice lines have provided many thousands of women with legal advice and information on a wide range of issues including domestic violence, child arrangements, relationship breakdown, immigration and asylum issues. They provide a safe space for women to talk about their situation and receive expert legal advice to enable them to make important decisions about their future.

Applicants must have a full practising certificate and have a specialism in either family or immigration law. We ask for a commitment of one 2 hour advice session each month.

Find further information and an application pack here

 
 
 

Contact us at:


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