Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Legal Aid Where Domestic Violence: New Rules: Apply Again?


The odds on getting legal aid these days are about as great as winning more than £1m on the National Lottery. It's different though when you want the legal aid for a private family dispute such as over contact to children and your opponent has used domestic violence to you or a child or there is a risk of it. Legal aid then becomes much more likely on 8 January 2018 when the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) (Amendment) (No2) Regulations 2017 SI 2017/1237 come into force despite all those brackets and so a reapplication may succeed  if legal aid has been refused. 

You have to produce evidence of the abuse or the risk of it to support your legal aid application. The requirement that the evidence of abuse should relate back to the previous five years (originally, two years) has been scrapped. Now there is no time limit but remember the application must succeed on merits.

As to the reckonable forms of evidence, there are still the old ones but also new ones and broadened ones. The old continue include an arrest, caution for or conviction for a domestic violence offence or the obtaining of a non-molestation order. The new include a letter from a UK domestic violence support service that they provided you with support – there is an objective element here in that the author must state their reasonable professional judgment that you are or are at risk of domestic violence – or even a letter or report that admission to a refuge was refused after allegations of violence. Also reckonable, letters from a local authority or housing association officer (objective again); a public authority which has assessed violence or risk; an independent domestic violence adviser providing support; and the Home Office confirming that leave to remain has been granted under the Immigration Rules 1971 domestic violence provisions. The burden on GPs is relaxed in that appropriate supporting evidence will now be accepted from other health professionals registered with a relevant regulator including a paramedic or social worker.

Say the risk is perceived on the strength of violence towards a previous partner or other family members but not to you? A further change says that evidence to this effect can count.

Judges will continue to be alert to the possibility of invented or exaggerated allegations of violence purely to secure legal aid. The amendment regulations are similarly alert. Legal aid may be withdrawn where a non-molestation etc injunction has been obtained without notice and subsequently been set aside and also, following certain forms of evidence, a public authority writes to confirm that you were neither a victim or at risk of domestic violence.  

Good luck. And for how to win compensation against the perpetrator of domestic violence, see my book Breaking Law