Legal Aid Worries Continue for Violence Victims after Changes
Byline: Graham Henry Senedd Correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org
VICTIMS of domestic violence are still being restricted in their access to legal aid a year after sweeping reforms were brought in - despite positive changes to the way the system is administered, a campaigning group has said.
Welsh Women's Aid (WWA) said that, while the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) had introduced positive changes since it published a report last month, worrying shortfalls in training remain which affect access.
The UK Government introduced changes to how legal aid was granted, which required victims of domestic abuse to produce evidence so they could apply for family law legal aid, in April last year.
Research from WWA and the Rights of Women group, published a year after changes were first introduced, showed that more than four in 10 (43%) did not have the prescribed forms of evidence to access the legal aid, while it also found 47% ended up taking no action on their family law problem, because they weren't able to apply for legal aid.
Nearly a third were also forced to pay a solicitor privately, while a quarter represented themselves at court.
Labour AM for Pontypridd, Mick Antoniw, met with Simon Hughes, minister of justic, on Thursday to press the case for further reform, and gave him a copy of the WWA report.
He said: "I am very concerned that legal aid cuts will leave families in vulnerable and dangerous situations. Many victims of domestic abuse are still afraid of reporting to the police or their GP - and the most vulnerable such as those with mental health or language difficulties are even less likely to report abuse.
"I raised these concerns with the Minister and I do appreciate his willingness to read the report.
"However it is action we need now - action to ensure that woman in dangerous situations have access to the legal advice they need and that barriers to this are removed. …