THE Government’s decision to relax legal aid restrictions for domestic violence victims has been welcomed by Sweeney Miller solicitors.
From January 2018, time limits preventing victims of domestic violence from obtaining legal aid for court proceedings will be scrapped.
These restrictions have been heavily criticised, not least by the Law Society, and have left large numbers of women confronting abusive ex-partners without representation.
The restrictions will also be relaxed to accept evidence from victim support organisations.
Paul Miller, senior partner at Sweeney Miller, said: “The decision by the Government to move in this direction can only benefit the public and in particular those who have suffered domestic violence and seek their day in court.
The move is also long overdue, according to Law Society of England and Wales president Joe Egan.
He said: “The government’s decision will make it easier for victims to provide evidence and to qualify for legal aid.
“The five-year time limit causes difficulties for victims who were abused more than five years ago but have no recent documents to prove this.
“The forms of evidence required have also been very restrictive.
“Broadening the types of evidence that can be accepted to include statements from domestic violence support organisations and housing support officers will remove many of the difficulties faced by victims.
“Legal aid is a lifeline for those who have suffered abuse.
“It is often the only way someone can bring their case before the courts.
“This positive decision is the end result of work the Law Society and other organisations have been doing with the Ministry of Justice for many months.”