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LEGAL AID AS A RIGHT FOR VICTIMS OF PROVEN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Comment 2nd July 2010

I have been the victim of an extreme act of domestic violence by my then husband.  He was imprisoned for 6 years (getting out after only 3) but because he was in prison, he (the offender) was automatically awarded legal aid for the divorce proceedings.  I (the victim) was initially granted legal aid, then had the certificate cancelled because I was given a modest severance payment from my employer who terminated my employment because I was unfit to work after being attacked!  Legal Services then claimed over £1500 back for work that was done under the certificate (then placed a charge on my property).  My ex husband (the Offender) fought all through the courts, hiring barristers etc because he was getting it free!  I was in no position to allow this to happen and so had to continue with my right for justice.  The courts subsequently found in my favour and awarded costs – but because he was being funded by LSC, the costs were claimed against LSC under Section 11 of the Access to Criminal Justice Act 1998.  When legal services were invited by my solicitor to pay the costs the found a loophole which neither the Judge, nor my Barrister were aware of.  Legal Services refused to pay under the Community Services (cost protection) (amendment Regulations 2005 (S1 2005 No.2006).  The effect of this Amendment to the regulations in 205 was to remove costs protection, as envisged by s.11 of the Access to Justice Act, from family proceedings.  In short, it meant that they won't pay – so I am left with all the legal costs it taken me to rid myself of a convicted violent man!!  PLEASE amend this regulation once more to read "except in cases of proven domestic violence" ……. women (or men) who are fighting for justice after violent acts such as this should be supported every inch of the way to get them out of these disastrous and life threatening marriages or partnerships!   This is a TERRIBLE amendment and in effect the regulations as they stand effectively nullify s.11 of the Access to Just Act in family proceedings – it should NOT do so in family proceedings which become necessary because of an act of extreme violence against one of the parties of the marriage!

Why does this matter?

To enable people in situations of extreme (proven) domestic violence to get out of their marriage or partnership without being left with HUGE legal costs, while the person who is the perpetrator of such violence is funded by the public purse.  ALL divorce and ancillary proceedings in cases of extreme domestic violence should be funded by the Government – especially for the VICTIM regardless of income!!

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