National firm offers domestic abuse victims free consultation as reports increase

updated on 22 April 2020

National firm Irwin Mitchell is offering free 20-minute consultations to domestic abuse victims until the coronavirus crisis ends. According to the Law Gazette, the firm said it feels “duty bound” to support domestic abuse victims as the UK lockdown continues in a bid to slow down the spread of the pandemic.

Refuge – the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity – reported a 700% increase in calls in one day after the lockdown measures were introduced in March. An increase in urgent care proceedings in the family courts was also reported.

Toby Hales, family law partner at Irwin Mitchell, said: “As a firm we felt duty bound to put our expertise to good use in helping people to get through this crisis. For victims, there is often little knowledge of where to turn. If the situation falls short of one in which the police are prepared to become actively involved, the only way for such a situation to be resolved is through family courts.

“For those who qualify financially, fortunately legal aid remains available to provide access to justice, but for those who do not the legal system can be an expensive and bewildering process.”

Victims may be signposted to alternative legal aid firms if required or instruct Irwin Mitchell, but will not be obliged to do so.

Hales added: “We can try and help assess the situation from a professional point of view and try to provide a safe avenue for people affected whether that is one that requires the police to get involved or something that can be resolved by family lawyers, and will advise on the availability of legal aid and other support services. We’ll be helping to obtain protection from the courts and, where necessary, to get the court process started to resolve any issues involving children.”

Victims’ commissioner Dame Vera Baird highlighted the hard work that is underway to ensure domestic abuse victims are safe during the lockdown. New guidance on remote hearings has been published by Rights of Women – an organisation that supports women through the law – as a reminder that the family court is still hearing emergency applications for non-molestation and occupation orders.