Gloria De Piero, the shadow justice minister, has criticised the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for delaying the introduction of changes to rules around legal aid for victims of domestic violence. In February, the MoJ had confirmed it was ‘reviewing the arrangements for providing legal aid to victims of domestic violence in private family law disputes’ (see February 2017 Legal Action
5). It was widely believed that the government was planning to scrap the requirement for victims to produce evidence of abuse within the last five years and to increase the categories of professionals who could provide evidence of domestic violence.
In a letter to justice secretary David Lidington reported by the Guardian
(Rowena Mason, ‘Domestic violence victims still waiting for legal aid reform, says Labour
’, 18 October 2017), De Piero said: ‘[I]t should not take eight months to put this right. Every month the government drags its feet on implementing these reforms, victims of domestic violence are being denied access to justice in matters as important as securing the safety of themselves and their children. I ask that you now urgently implement the reforms promised and ensure domestic violence victims have swift and simple access to legal aid support.’
Legal Action is aware that detailed discussions have been ongoing between a group of specialist lawyers and officials at the MoJ. A source close to these negotiations told us that the ‘delay has been due to ministerial changes and having to put the plan to the latest lord chancellor and his team to agree’. They also confirmed that the changes ‘are now at the laying a statutory instrument stage’.