Number of domestic violence victims forced to represent themselves in court soars due to legal aid cuts

updated on 02 January 2018

The number of domestic violence victims having to represent themselves against their abusers in court without a lawyer has more than doubled since 2012.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that 3,234 victims of domestic violence had no legal representation in at least one hearing during the first nine months of 2017 – over double the figure from the same period in 2012. The government’s austerity programme, which has included swingeing cuts to legal aid provision, is the reason for the rise. Recognising this, in December the government finally scrapped widely-criticised restrictions on access to legal aid for domestic violence victims which limited the categories of acceptable evidence that can be provided.

However, campaigners have said that the government’s concessions do not go far enough. Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, told The Guardian: “Countless [women] are forced either to fund their own case, or remain at risk. Many of the women Refuge supports have no choice but to represent themselves in court, where they can end up face to face with abusive ex-partners. Much more needs to be done to ensure that the legal aid system recognises the unique financial challenges faced by the women Refuge supports. Too many women are currently turned away because they appear to own assets or savings which are actually under their abuser’s control.”