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Legal aid restrictions are barrier to justice for domestic abuse victims

22 January 2015

Citizens Advice has condemned legal aid reforms as “restrictions on justice” for victims of domestic abuse today. The Divisional Court today ruled that the legal aid changes brought into effect in 2013 are lawful, in response to a challenge brought by the Public Law Project on behalf of Rights of Women.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Restrictions on legal aid have become restrictions on justice for victims of domestic abuse. The Divisional Court decision today leaves in place legal aid reforms that have had a silencing effect on people speaking out about an abusive relationship. When the justice system should support victims of abuse coming forward it is instead putting up a barrier right at the start.  

“The kinds of evidence currently required for victims to get legal aid are not practical, putting at risk attempts to separate from an abuser and safeguard children. Obtaining the evidence in cases of emotional or financial abuse can be almost impossible. Nine in ten advisers we surveyed had helped someone with financial abuse, such as controlling their day to day spending or forcing them into debt. The Government has made an encouraging commitment to tackling all forms of domestic abuse that it must now see through by making legal aid available to all of these victims.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at adviceguide.org.uk
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.