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Legal Aid

Volume 458: debated on Monday 26 March 2007

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment the Government have made of the effect on those (a) affected by domestic violence and (b) on low incomes of the proposed changes to legal aid arrangements; and if she will make a statement. (129570)

Domestic violence is a cross-Government priority and formalised through the formation of the Inter-Ministerial Group for Domestic Violence. The Group comprises of Ministers from nine Government Departments and the three devolved administrations. In light of the assessments and priority need, the group prepares an Annual Delivery Plan and reports against progress each year. The report for 2006-07 will be published shortly together with the Delivery Plan for 2007-08.

Domestic Violence proceedings are a priority area for legal aid funding. The Legal Services Commission's (LSC's) Funding Code Criteria for domestic violence cases are wider than for most other family and non-family areas; they are not limited to any specific definition of domestic violence or abuse. When appearing in a family court, persons of limited means will be funded in all but the most exceptional of circumstances. As a separate measure to the wider programme of legal aid reform as set out in “Legal Aid Reform: The Way Ahead” the financial eligibility limits for legal aid for domestic violence victims will be raised and both income and capital limits will be able to waived, by the LSC, on a discretionary basis from 9 April 2007. In criminal proceedings, the Crown Prosecution Service represents the victim of domestic violence.