The legal aid system drastically changed since 1 April 2013. This was when the Legal Services Commission was replaced by the Legal Aid Agency, and the cuts imposed by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 took effect. LASPO implements substantial scope cuts to civil legal aid.
Domestic violence: trigger evidence
Under the new family legal aid rules, most private law services are only available to the victims of domestic violence. In order to be entitled to legal aid, the client has to prove that they are victim of domestic violence by producing ‘trigger evidence’.
Legal aid will be available in private family law cases for applications for protective injunctions. No ‘trigger evidence’ is required for legal aid for an injunction application. Legal aid is a mystery to most who do not deal with it daily with a plethora of complicated rules and regulations. The basic principle is that anyone who is seeking a domestic violence injunction can get legal aid to pay for the costs initially but those with more than £ 3000 capital may have to pay a one off capital contribution equal to any amount over that sum. Property owners who do not occupy their home may have to pay the costs of their case back in full. Owner occupiers in general will have the value of their home disregarded provided they have no more than £100,000 equity in it. Claimants of Income Based JSA, ESA, Income Support get free legal aid. Those on low incomes get legal aid but pay a contribution based on their disposable income.
Legal aid is also available for divorce, and for children and financial disputes, if the client can produce ‘trigger evidence’. In order to get Legal aid for any children case, a claimant must have disposable capital less than £3000 and disposable income less than the prescribed limit, currently around £220 per week AND they must EITHER be in a refuge, or HAVE BEEN in a refuge, OR have a domestic violence injunction, a police restraining order in their favour, or other evidence of domestic violence which is prescribed by the Legal Aid Agency. The EXCEPTION: Care proceedings, where legal aid is free to all parents.
What is ‘trigger evidence’?
The list of trigger evidence can be found in regulation 33 of the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012.
- A relevant unspent conviction for a child abuse offence
- A relevant police caution for a child abuse offence within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application
- Evidence of relevant criminal proceedings for a child abuse offence which have not concluded
- A relevant protective injunction which is in force or which was granted within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application
- A copy of a finding of fact, made in proceedings in the United Kingdom within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application, of abuse of a child by an individual other than the applicant for civil legal services
- A letter from a social services department confirming that, within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application, the child was assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of child abuse by an individual other than the applicant for civil legal services
- A letter from a social services department confirming that, within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application, a child protection plan was put in place to protect the child from abuse or a risk of abuse by an individual other than the applicant for civil legal services;
- . An application for an order for a protective injunction made with an application for a prohibited steps order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989(a) which has not, at the date of the application for civil legal services, been decided by the court
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