Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Domestic Violence and Legal Aid - Dispelling Myths

A number of headlines are circulating at the moment and it is of concern that people may think legal aid isn't available to victims of domestic violence.

It is.

The Government ensured that legal aid for victims of domestic violence was protected from cuts. Howeverm they did require that a degree of evidence was required to support that allegations of domestic violence were genuine, and not being used as a means to get free legal support (for such things as custody battles).

There is a wide body of evidence which can be produced to help gain free legal assistance. This includes:
  • an existing protective order or injunction in respect of the other party, against the applicant;
  • an undertaking having been given by the other party in lieu of a protective order or injunction for the protection of the applicant;
  • a police caution for domestic violence against the applicant;
  • appropriate evidence of admission to a domestic violence refuge;
  • appropriate evidence from a social services department confirming the provision of services to the victim in relation to alleged domestic violence;
  • evidence from GPs;
  • a criminal conviction for domestic violence by the other party against the applicant;
  • evidence of a multi-agency risk assessment conference having been referred as at risk of domestic violence, with action recommended;
  • a finding of fact by the courts of domestic violence by the other party against the applicant.
It should be noted that the above criteria do not require concrete proof that domestic violence has happened in the past, simply evidence that it may have done.

It's important to remember that false allegations are a form of domestic violence too, and the Government has a duty to protect all victims.

The Government might have insisted that legal aid funding be recouped if allegations were found to be false, or unproven, but circumstances do exist where false allegations are prompted by anxiety or mental illness, and under those circumstances, financial penalties would be inappropriate. Campaign groups for domestic violence charities would inevitably argue that such penalties would act as barrier to genuine victims coming forward.

We deplore domestic violence against either gender or children, but in this instance, believe the Government struck the right balance. False allegations remain a significant part of family law proceedings, and the impact of such allegations can cause long term emotional and psychological harm (not to mention the implications to a child's development and wellbeing caused by needless investigations, manipulation to believe a parent might be dangerous when not and the cessation of contact when allegations are false).

On our site, we have a section providing information regarding help available to victims of DV, including information about non-molestation orders, occupation orders and undertakings, and organisations which can advise and support. This includes information to assist parents who do not qualify for legal aid and who need to apply to the court for protective orders.

Click on the image below to be taken to our family law app and Domestic Violence Support Menu:

We might also add we provide information to support those falsely accused, too: