MPs approve concession for legal aid in domestic abuse cases

MPs debated the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill this week and agreed to widen the evidential criteria for granting legal aid in domestic abuse cases. The concession means that a greater list of evidence, including that from GPS and social workers, could be used to prove domestic abuse to allow claims to be made under the legal aid system.

The Government had faced criticism that the narrower category of evidence would make it more difficult for victims of domestic abuse to pursue their claims.

Law Society president John Wooton said: “The House of Lords amendments, while they would cost the Government very little, improved the bill substantially and would provide legal aid for cases involving some of the most vulnerable individuals. The Government's concession on domestic abuse, while falling short of our proposal, is to be welcomed…”

The concession comes as MPs voted to overturn the majority of the other amendments made to the bill by the House of Lords.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clark commented that there would be no further u-turns. He said “We have moved in key areas beyond where we were and this evening we have to insist that is where we will end. There comes a point where we will forget what the object of this is. We do want more of these cases not to be conducted by lawyers financed by the taxpayer engaging in adversarial litigation about where children are going to live, what maintenance should be paid by one party or the other, or what share of the matrimonial home is going to be owned by one party or the other.”