Legal Aid is not available to parties in PA cases, with exceptions – cases of domestic abuse (‘DA’), and to support children that are represented by Guardians Ad Litem.
Domestic Violence (‘DV’)
Victims of DA tend to be seen as women, and DA is really only recognised, certainly by Social Workers, when it is physical or sexual – when it amounts to egregious physical harm (DV). It is right and proper that abused women should receive Legal Aid for this kind of case, and, indeed, women’s groups won a big Court of Appeal case in February 2016. The CA declared that efforts from the coalition government to restrict Legal Aid here were “invalid”.
STOPPA applauds this.
But there are other groups to consider.
Children can get Legal Aid, through a Guardian. This is one very good reason to have a Guardian appointed. And this applies to PA cases where the scars (for women, men and children) are just as deep (deeper?) and last longer, with long-term consequences, both for the child and for society at large. .
Men, and Female Victims of PA
Male victims of DA are quite often laughed at. How can a woman hurt someone twice her size?! Well, it does happen. In the US it has recently been estimated that men are victims of domestic violence in 43% of cases. Also, both men and women are victims of PA, and that is just as violent, for reasons already mentioned.
But if you try to get Legal Aid claiming that you are the victim of PA non-physical violence, you will not get far. This comment applies to PA victims of both genders. Again, this needs to be addressed.
STOPPA has heard complaints that APs are getting Legal Aid on the mere assertion of DV. Perhaps that is right, as evidence is sometimes hard to come by. But if APs get it, and TPs will not, we are not on a level playing field. Again, this needs to be addressed
Legal Aid should be reinstated for all litigants in PA cases. Or none (except Children, who should get it in all cases, including of course non-PA cases, as they do now).