Improving access to justice for victims of domestic abuse

November 25th marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – a date recognised across the nation. However, what isn’t recognised by many is the legal aid available to those women and girls who are currently living with violence.

Violence against women and girls is a pervasive issue in society, with many suffering without support or guidance. The latest statistics from across the UK show that in the year ending March 2020, an estimated 1.6 million women aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse (DA) in the last year, and, according to CSEW data for the year ending March 2018, only 18% of women who had experienced partner abuse in the last 12 months reported the abuse to the police.

Looking closer to home, last year, DA-related crimes in Merseyside rose once again, despite prosecutions falling. There were 34,421 DA-related incidents reported to Merseyside Police from April 2020 to and including March 2021 – equating to around 94 per day on average. In Greater Manchester, there was an increase of 44% in DA crimes reported between August 2020 and August 2021 – with a total of 58,940.

At MSB, we’re passionate about and committed to providing support to victims of DA across the North West and raising awareness of the help on offer – this extends from inside our offices, to wider society.

This commitment is reflected in our initiatives, policies, public events and legal aid offering which allows us to support those in DA situations who may not be in a position to pay for legal support.

For example, earlier this year, we launched the ‘exit button’ feature on our website. This button was implemented to enable users browsing the site to immediately leave the page and return to the computers home screen. This was created with DA victims in mind, giving them an avenue to escape if they felt their abuser was watching their screen while they’re potentially seeking support.

We know that a big hurdle victims face is not knowing where to go, who to turn to and what help is available. To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, this month we will be hosting a free open legal clinic at Blackburne House, open to all women and girls seeking advice and support. No appointment is needed, anyone can drop in any time between 9.30am and 5pm to speak to a member of our team about the options available to them.

It’s equally important to us that we provide the same level of care to our staff as we do our clients. Earlier in the year, following in the inspiring footsteps of Northern Ireland, we implemented a ‘Safe Days’ policy across the firm. In March this year, Northern Ireland rolled out the Domestic Abuse (Save Leave) Bill, which entitles all victims of DA to 10 days of paid leave each year.

We acknowledge the difficulty that can come with seeking help and making arrangements when trapped in a situation involving DA; this Safe Days policy gives staff 10 days of leave which is intended to be used for issues relating to DA, including obtaining legal advice, finding alternative accommodation, taking advantage of healthcare, obtaining welfare support and protecting family members – though it’s not exclusively restricted to this.

Northern Ireland has led the way in improving access to justice with this bill and we’re urging businesses across the UK to get behind the initiative by implementing safe days in their own workplaces.

If you are interested in implementing safe days or any other safeguarding policies for your own staff, please contact our Head of Employment, Steven Davies, on

If you need advice or support on any of the issues mentioned here, you can be sure that our Family Team will have the expertise needed to reach the right resolution for you. We are here to help. Contact us today.