Commissioner says legal aid ruling ‘will help many victims’

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.

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Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, has welcomed the news that Government rules restricting access to legal aid for domestic violence victims have been ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal.

Legal aid is intended to enable the people concerned to get the court to address vital issues such as determine parenting arrangements for their children, financial support for them and the family’s housing arrangements.

The ruling in the case brought by the Public Law Project on behalf of the charity Rights of Women means the Government will now have to remove the stipulation that people applying for this aid have to produce evidence of domestic violence within the previous two years.

Mrs Baird said: “Too many victims of domestic abuse, who have found the strength to come forward, have been let down by a system blocking them from accessing necessary legal aid.

“The Court of Appeal decision should pave the way for more victims of domestic abuse to get the help they need. It’s clear to me that the controversial and unacceptable measures had been the Government’s way of rationing the access to funds rather than qualifying need.

“As it was, people making allegations needed separate and very specific categories of evidence as well as their own testimony. However, much domestic violence, by definition, occurs between two people away from public view.”