Legal Aid in Lockdown

The most important message to take away from this blog is that legal aid is still very much available during lockdown.

Legal aid lawyers at MSB are undertaking all aspects of publicly funded family law. Throughout lockdown we have been able to give advice to new clients over the telephone and we are able to carry out swift and accurate legal aid eligibility assessments.

If you’ve been told elsewhere that you do not qualify or if you have been struggling to obtain “gateway evidence” such as a GP letter, get in touch. We have innovative and straightforward ways for potential clients to forward documentation to us.

It is particularly important that we as Legal Aid practitioners get the message out there to third sector agencies, charities, law centres and other professional colleagues and prospective clients, that we are working remotely and that the most vulnerable in our society do not need to deal with any issues alone.

Legal aid is readily available, and we have expert legal aid solicitors who are both able and willing to help people at what is inevitably their most vulnerable time. An example being, applications for non-molestation order’s (injunctions) which we have been able to publicly fund and deal with on the same day, by issuing the application to court electronically and having a remote telephone hearing. This means that from the point of first contact clients have been protected within six to eight hours from their abuser perpetrating any further violence against them.

This is all the more important during lockdown as the increase in domestic violence has been widely reported in the press. The UK’s largest domestic abuse charity Refuge has reported a 700% increase in calls to its helpline in a day. The Home Office has also created a campaign on social media #YouAreNotAlone “at home shouldn’t mean at risk”, which encourages the public to show solidarity for victims and reiterates that lockdown rules don’t apply if you’re a victim of domestic violence seeking support.

The fact that you cannot physically see a solicitor is no bar to obtaining legal aid.

The legal aid agency has recognised the practical hurdles that legal aid solicitors and practitioners faced at the outset of the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown and has worked with practitioners and adapted accordingly.

As recently as 9th April, amendments have been made to Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of offenders Act LASPO 2012 and the evidence requirements for family law have been expanded, making it easier for people to obtain and access legal aid during this difficult period. The changes provide as much as much flexibility as possible within the existing legislation.

The following changes apply to the guidance in respect of evidence for both domestic abuse and child abuse

  • Removing the need for evidence to be submitted on letterhead paper were required
  • Allowing additional types of evidence to be submitted via email
  • Allowing solicitors to provide the legal aid agency with an email documenting that they have spoken to a member of the police to receive confirmation that the perpetrator received a caution for domestic violence/child abuse offence, or that the perpetrator is involved in ongoing criminal proceedings relating to domestic abuse/child abuse offence.

At MSB, we have several solicitors who are experts in assessing eligibility and obtaining legal aid. We firmly believe that the message needs to be out there loud and clear.

To anybody who may be suffering at the hands of an abusive partner, having involvement with social services, or facing difficulty in coming to agreement with an ex-partner regarding your child, you do not need to deal with those issues alone. Legal aid is available and we can assess you for your eligibility and secure public funding for you if you are eligible, to support you in resolving whatever difficulties you are facing. Legal aid is available.

Contact us, we are here to help

If you have any questions please contact Nicola Harris on the details provided below