Domestic violence statistics – 14 December 2017
29 / 12 / 2017
The Ministry of Justice published its Family Court Statistics Quarterly, England and Wales, July to September 2017, on 14 December 2017.
The statistics demonstrated that when compared to July to September 2016, the number of domestic violence remedy order applications had risen by 10% and the number of orders made during the relevant period had increased by 13%.
81% of the applications were for non-molestation orders, with the remainder being for occupation orders.
In relation to this, other Ministry of Justice findings demonstrated that between January and September 2017, 3,234 victims had no legal representation in at least one hearing – an increase from 1,309 back in 2012 (prior to the legal aid changes coming into effect in 2013).
The Shadow Justice Minister, Gloria de Piero, said that “These figures show the shocking effect of the government’s cavalier changes to legal aid”.
By way of explanation, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act came into force in 2013 and one of the effects that it had was to significantly reduce the amount of people eligible for legal aid services from a solicitor in relation to family matters, although such instance where legal aid is sometimes still available is where there has been domestic violence. However, further to that Act an individual is only eligible for legal aid if they met specific requirements/eligibility criteria, that being that either that they have experienced domestic violence before or are at significant risk from the same. In addition, individuals are required to provide specific types of documentary evidence in support and further, the domestic violence must have occurred within the previous 5 years. If an individual does not meet that criteria then they will not be eligible for legal aid.
Since the introduction of the Act there has consequently been much discussion regarding the difficulties that are caused to those that have experienced domestic violence but are unable to meet the strict eligibility requirements as they, as demonstrated by the statistics referred to above, have had to represent themselves in Court.
The Government has however now said that they have “listened to victims’ groups and carefully reviewed the criteria for legal aid victims of domestic abuse in family cases”
and are making changes. In light of this, next year, the 5 year restriction is being removed and the types of evidence that is accepted is being expanded, which can only be a good thing.