Citizen’s Advice Bureau urges Ministry of Justice to reconsider legal aid reforms

Citizen’s Advice Bureau urges Ministry of Justice to reconsider legal aid reforms

Posted by on Feb 27, 2015 in News

Following the news earlier this month that the charity Rights of Women lodged an appeal against reforms which restricted access to legal aid for victims of domestic abuse, this week the Citizen’s Advice Bureau has published a report warning against the cuts.

The report shows that around a fifth of advisers could no longer help as many domestic abuse clients as before, and that most clients are unable to afford required contributions, “leaving no alternative but to represent themselves in court facing their perpetrator.”

A third of all advisers reported that fewer domestic abuse victims are proceeding with legal action as a result of the changes.

The report also warns that the evidence required for a successful prosecution are often too hard to obtain without legal counsel, leaving victims in a position where they cannot afford legal representation, and cannot resolve the situation on their own.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau has urged the Ministry of Justice to revise these new reforms, which is currently trapping victims in “a catch-22 situation”.

A spokesperson for the MoJ has defended the claims, stating “Since the reforms were introduced thousands of people have successfully applied for legal aid where domestic violence is involved. However, we have always said we will keep the new system under review, and our door is always open to those with evidence about concerns.”


Read a Law Gazette article or the full Citizens Advice report.

If you are in an abusive relationship and require advice, find details of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau advice, or contact RISE.

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Proposal to increase divorce fee dropped

Proposal to increase divorce fee dropped

Posted by on Feb 6, 2015 in News

The government has scrapped its proposal to raise the amount payable to file a divorce petition from £410 to £750 following a consultation.

The proposal was highly criticised by respondents to the consultation. Some of the main criticisms included:

  • The consultation included no justification as to why the fee should be increased;
  • It is wrong to seek to obtain more profit from the breakdown of a relationship;
  • Such a high fee would discourage people from seeking a divorce, which may leave them trapped in an unhappy or abusive relationship;
  • Many would find themselves unable to pay the fee; and
  • As more women file divorce petitions than men, it would be discriminatory.

If you wish to receive advice about filing for a divorce, please contact us and we will be glad to talk you through the process.

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Baroness Deech calls for reform of divorce law

Baroness Deech calls for reform of divorce law

Posted by on Feb 4, 2015 in News

In a series of lectures and speeches, Baroness Deech has called for a reform of current divorce law, stating controversially that “the message [sent by the current law] is that getting married to a well-off man is an alternative career to one in the workforce”.

Deech argues that although our maintenance laws are still influenced by the notion of female dependency on the male, 70% of women work, leading to injustice for males in divorce proceedings.

These comments have been widely discussed in the media this week, with some taking the same stance, that couples of marriages which last under three years should not divide assets at all, and maintenance should only be paid where the claimant spouse has care of young children or is unable to work.

Others have argued that the point is not whether the law is unfair on men, but rather that divorce settlements are a ‘lottery’ and a more just reform would be to curb judge’s discretion. This would allow lawyers to give their clients an idea of what to expect in terms of settlement, and would also prevent the current public attitude that women benefit too greatly from divorce.

Furthermore, the type of ‘big money’ cases to which Baroness Deech is referring in her speeches are highly uncommon. In the majority of divorce cases the assets of the couple barely meet the needs of both parties and so the issue is not whether the woman is receiving more than her share, but rather ensuring that both parties have sufficient resources following the settlement.

Either way, the current law has failed to keep up with family dynamics and structures in the UK. Divorce is a controversial subject which affects many people’s lives, and therefore needs to be discussed rather than avoided by politicians.

Read an edited extract of one of Baroness Deech’s speeches on this matter.

Should you need advice about divorce and wish to speak to a solicitor, do not hesitate to contact one of our solicitors, who will be more than happy to advise you on the process.

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High Court rejects challenge of ‘draconian’ regulation which restricts legal aid for domestic abuse victims

High Court rejects challenge of ‘draconian’ regulation which restricts legal aid for domestic abuse victims

Posted by on Feb 2, 2015 in News

The High Court has rejected a challenge of the legality of regulation 33, brought in to reduce the number of family law cases which fall within the scope of legal aid, in line with the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO). The regulation requires victims of domestic violence to provide evidence supporting an application for legal aid.

The Court held that regulation 33 was not outside of the scope of the government’s powers under LASPO, and although the criticisms of the application of the regulation were justifiable, this is a matter for Parliament to address and not the Courts.

President of the Law Society (who supported the challenge, brought by the Public Law Project) Andrew Caplen stated that the Law Society will continue to lobby Parliament as “victims of domestic violence should not be excluded from accessing legal aid for family law disputes against an abusive ex-partner or relative because of these unrealistic regulations”.

Research undertaken by Rights of Women has shown that that approximately 40% of women affected by violence do not have the evidence required to apply for family law legal aid. Emma Scott, director of Rights of Women, said “we are applying for permission to appeal this decision and remain committed to campaigning on this issue”.

Read the full Law Gazette article on this decision, and the full text of regulation 33 which lists the documentary evidence required for an application for legal aid.

If you are affected by domestic violence please contact RISE, a local charity which supports victims of abuse. If you wish to speak to one of our solicitors, please contact us by phone or by email.

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