Voice4Victims welcomes Government Announcement to Protect Victims in Court

Voice4Victims welcomes the announcement today that the Government will be legislating to stop victims of domestic violence being cross examined by their abusers in Family Court.

In July 2016, Voice4Victims held the #AbuseofProcess conference which looked at different ways abusers exploit their rights to access legal platforms in order to continue unwanted contact with their victims and abuse them further. One of the areas highlighted was the Family Courts and Jess Phillips attended the conference to share findings from her campaigning with Women’s Aid.

In December 2016, the Guardian newspaper ran a series of articles based on Women’s Aid #childfirst report and Voice4Victims #abuseofprocess report which highlighted abusers cross examining their victims. Today the Government has responded and announced that they will be addressing this high risk and re-victimising procedure.

Voice4Victims will continue to campaign on Abuse of Process as they hope the Government will widen their legislation to include the civil courts, where many victims of stalking ,harassment and domestic violence are being cross examined by their abusers.

‘We are seeing too many victims forced into vexatious legal proceedings so their abusers can see them, harass them and harm them further. It is vital that the Government recognise all forms of abuse of process in all legal platforms in order to safeguard victims’ says Claire Waxman, Founder of Voice4Victims.

The government also announced today that they will be reviewing the use of sexual histories during cross examination of rape victims. This also comes on the back of another Voice4Victims’ campaign after they have drafted a Rape Shield Bill with Liz Saville Roberts, which was introduced as a ten minute rule bill on Wednesday February 8th 2017.

Again, through Voice4Victims’ campaigning, the impact of this brutal cross examination on victims is being recognised and hopefully will be restricted in the future in order to protect victims.

Harry Fletcher, Co-director of Voice4Victims said ‘The impact of cross examining a person about their sexual history is intended to undermine the credibility of the victim and humiliate them. It’s welcome that the government is looking to change the law in this area’.

Voice4Victims was set up to ensure that the voices of victims are heard and as evidenced today, their ground breaking campaigns play a vital role in influencing future policies, services and legislations to protect victims of crime.

The Victims’ Law Campaign Journey

In January 2013, after a long discussion with fellow campaigner Ann Moulds, I launched Voice4Victims campaign, a campaign to improve the rights of victims in the justice system and to ensure that those rights were legally enforceable.

At the start, those I met were sympathetic to the cause but all agreed that the Victims’ Code was a good vehicle for ensuring victims’ rights and entitlements and they would not publicly support my campaign. Very few could see that more needed to be done, that without the foundations of legally enforceable rights for victims, the victim’s journey would be littered with mistakes that would deeply impact their route to justice and recovery.

I knew from my own long, relentless experience as a stalking victim, that the code was ineffective and that I had no rights when navigating through the complex justice process I was forced to face. I met with the Victims’ commissioner, MP’s, other agencies and charities and yet most failed to see the importance of the Victims’ Law campaign.

Over time, the evidence from other case failings started to materialise and amass and this supported my notion that the code was failing to deliver for others too. A year into the campaign, I was joined by Harry Fletcher, who had successfully worked on both the stalking law reform and coercive control campaigns. He believed in the cause and gave his support. There was also Kate Waley from MAMAA UK and Eve Henderson from Murdered Abroad, who strongly supported the campaign for a Victims’ Law. They gave their time freely to helping me with pushing this campaign forward. It was Kate Waley who twisted my arm (literally) to go and hear Keir Starmer speak about his work commissioned by Labour, about proposals for a Victims’ Law. I thank Kate for pushing me into that room, forcing me to put aside my own personal views of the ex-DPP of CPS and listening to him speak. At the end of his speech, I knew that ironically the man I blamed for much of the CPS failings on my case, was the man to help move this campaign forward.

We met with Keir regularly and whilst he worked on his proposals and plans, Harry and I undertook the huge task of going through endless cases and cases and results from our Victims’ Rights surveys, cross referencing with the Code, in order to draft a comprehensive Bill of Rights for Victims.

In March 2015, with the victims’ bill completed, , Elfyn Llwyd , MP introduced the bill as a ten minute rule bill. The bill had cross party support but made no further progress, due to the election and Elfyn retiring. Thankfully, in September 2015, Keir, as a newly elected MP, agreed to take the bill and help strengthen it to include his own proposals. Together we worked on a ‘gold standard’ bill of rights for Victims of crime. This bill, which received cross party support, was tabled as a ten minute rule bill on 20th October 2015.

As the bill failed to reach second reading we worked on taking key aspects from the Bill and getting these supported and tabled as amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill. In October 2016, Baroness Brinton, who was sponsoring these amendments, held a conference in the House of Lords where victims including ‘Ivy’, gave powerful testimonies highlighting the failings they had endured on their cases and the awful impact these failings had on their lives.

As a result, the amendments were supported in the Lords and voted in on December 12th 2016.

In spite of this win, the Government refused to be hurried, even though they made a manifesto commitment to a victims’ law in May 2015. Their position unmoved by our work and our victory, as they re-iterated that the victims’ code was giving victims of crime, entitlements and rights.

Since the Lords vote on December 12th, Voice4Victims has worked tirelessly to ensure that the minister and the government can see the evidence from victims’ cases and the endless reports which clearly state the Victims’ Code is toothless and provides no real support for victims of crime. After a month of solid campaigning, the Government conceded on Wednesday 18th January 2017 and agreed to a 12 month timeframe of reviewing the code with the aim of primary legislation for victims’ rights and ensuring agencies would be accountable for failings.

This is a huge step forward and a big win for the Voice4Victims Victims Law campaign.

But our work and our campaign does not end.

Voice4Victims must now ensure that the Government fulfills their manifesto commitment to a Victims’ Law and honours the promise given in the Lords last week. We must keep showing the Government how the victims’ code is failing and demonstrate how a Victims’ Law would make a real difference to victims on the front line.

Many of these victims face terrible ordeals at the hands of the justice agencies and this week, one of our brave supporters, Ivy, shared her story publicly for the first time (Ivy Full interview with Victoria Derbyshire). In Ivy’s interview she relives the harrowing experience of not only the awful abuse she sustained for years, but also the awful treatment she received from every agency she came into contact with. The failings on her case highlight how the Victims’ code did not provide her with the rights and entitlements she was owed. It clearly illustrated how certain rights and enforceability are missing from the code which prevent it from being anything more than a well-intentioned document.

It’s for victims like Ivy, myself and for the thousands we have now encountered on this campaign, that we must continue this work. I am overwhelmed that 4 years on, so many now support this campaign and believe in a Victims’ Law and that victims must be placed at the centre of the justice process with legally enforceable rights.

It’s been a four year long and emotional journey where sometimes I felt as if I was ‘wading through treacle’. Those were the words Yvette Cooper said to me on the very first meeting I had about my hope for a Victims’ Law. She told me it would be like ‘wading through treacle’ and she couldn’t have been more accurate. I thank her for her first words of support. I thank Baroness Royall who also offered lots of support at the start for this campaign; to Ann Moulds who inspired me to do this much needed ground-breaking work in the first place; to Kate and Eve for championing me; Harry Fletcher for sticking around and helping me navigate the halls and processes of Parliament and introducing me to the law changers; Keir Starmer, who has given, and continues to give, so much guidance and support and is now in my opinion, brilliant; To Baroness Brinton, who is as driven as I am to make sure we win this battle and finally, the biggest thanks must go to Ivy and to all the other wonderful, inspiring victims turned survivors/campaigners who keep me going on the days where I think I’ve just had enough of treacle!

I ask that you all continue to support this campaign publicly, in articles, on your twitter feeds and continue to share experiences and stories with us, so we can add to the overwhelming evidence of why this law is needed.

We will be resurrecting the Victims’ Forum and sadly although Keir will not be able to be at the helm, he will be very much part of the work we do. So for those who share our vision of a justice system that is fair, equal, transparent and balanced for all, please do get involved and help us reach the finishing line – a VICTIMS LAW.

Listen to Claire Waxman & Baroness Brinton discuss Ivy’s case on Victoria Derbyshire Show and why Victims’ Law is needed

Ivy Full interview with Victoria Derbyshire

The Government Fails Victims of Crime and Breaks Manifesto Pledge to a Victims’ Law

On 10th January 2017, the Conservative government voted against the acceptance of the Lords amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill, which gives victims of crime, legally enforceable rights and redress.

The amendments were based on a Bill drafted by Voice4Victims CIC and introduced by Sir Keir Starmer, MP with all party support. Supporters included: Tim Loughton, Conservative, Sarah Champion, Labour, Caroline Lucas (Green) and Liz Saville-Roberts, (Plaid).

The Conservative manifesto published in 2015 contained a commitment to introducing a Victims’ Law “We have already introduced a new victims code and taken steps to protect vulnerable witness’s and victims.Now we will strengthen victims’ rights further, with a new victims law that will enshrine key rights for victims’”. In February 2016, Voice4Victims were told by Ministers that a Green Paper on the subject was imminent and that a Victims’ Law would be introduced in January 2017. Voice4Victims was involved in drafting questions for the Green Paper in spring 2016, however, the paper has still yet to be published and it seems the Government has forgotten its pledge.

On December 12th 2016, the amendments in the Lords were passed by a majority of 136-130 and if enacted, the amendments would have ensured that victims of crime had, for the first time in history, enforceable rights throughout the justice process and an easily accessible complaints system with sanctions.

Support in the Lords intensified after Peers heard first hand testimony from aggrieved victims and the appalling impact the lack of victims’ code compliance and rights had on them. It’s a shame the Government refused to hear these voices and have rejected these much needed amendments. This rejection will impact victims negatively as they will continue to suffer unnecessarily trying to access timely justice and support and will do little to restore public faith and confidence in our justice system.

Successive governments have claimed that victims are at the centre of the Criminal Justice System. In reality, this is not the case as victims remain peripheral and nothing but an afterthought. Our campaign has heard from hundreds of victims of crime who are suffering unnecessary delays; inadequate treatment and support; postponed court hearings; lack of information and contact with Police and other justice agencies; their complaints being ignored, dismissed or not investigated properly, to name just a few. As a consequence of these failings and lack of enforceable rights, victims are being re-traumatised and are becoming isolated, demoralised and even suicidal.

Only a day before the Government’s decision, we heard the Prime Minister speak of a ‘shared society’ and the need to make it a ‘fairer society’, to ‘tackle injustices’ and ‘help those who have been ignored by the Government for too long’. Based on these principles, we question how the government can then reject proposals that would ensure a fairer justice system which would be more transparent, inclusive and supportive? The Government’s vote yesterday has shown us that they continue to ignore victims of crime and have no real interest in their struggles or to understand the ordeal they must live through, when trying to navigate a flawed and broken justice system. It seemed their concerns were more focused on the agencies who might have to be accountable should they breach a victim’s right.

We now urge all our supporters to email their MP’s to ask if they supported the amendments? If they didn’t, ask them why they do not feel victims need enforceable rights? We would suggest you ask for a meeting so you can describe to them exactly how the system has failed you and how the victims’ code does very little to empower you and acknowledge your rights and your voice.

We must now all work together to hold the Government to account on its manifesto commitment and ensure a Victims’ Law is no longer an empty promise but a reality that will save victims from ongoing injustices and hardship.

Claire Waxman, Founder Voice4Victims.

Victims’ Rights amendments passed in House of Lords.

On 12th December 2016, a number of amendments drafted by Voice4Victims as part of their Victims’ Law campaign, were voted on by Peers in the House of Lords and the Government was defeated.

The Bill will now return in January 2017 to the House of Commons and we anticipate that the Government will either support these much needed amendments or offer a compromise. It would be astonishing if the Government chose to oppose these amendments as they would then be perceived by the public as anti-victim and that their manifesto commitment of a Victims’ Law made in 2015 was a broken pledge.

Some of these amendments include:

• The right to information at every stage of the justice process
• The right to not be discriminated against or prejudiced from accessing justice
• The right to not be subjected to unnecessary delay
• The right to challenge decisions that directly impact the victim’s safety
• The right to a case companion
• The right to attend and make representations to any pre-court hearing to determine the nature of the court proceedings

In addition, the amendments creates a professional regulatory body which has the power to accredit any victim support or treatment service to ensure that the organisations adhere to strict codes and ethics. This body has the power to ensure that all victims’ rights, outlined in the amendments, are upheld and enforced and gives it the power to investigate any complaints in a timely way and has the power to impose sanctions if these rights are breached.

The amendments also places a duty on the secretary of state to publish and implement a strategy to provide training for all relevant professionals and agencies on the impact of crime on victims including understanding stereotypes and myths that need to be recognised and challenged.

Finally, the amendments would ensure that Victims finally had legally enforceable rights which would dramatically improve their experience of the justice process and help them recover quicker from the impact of the crime.

Our Response to Government Announcement on Stalking Protection Orders

Today the Government announced plans for Stalking Protection Orders and many have publicly supported this step as positive. Our organisation deals with an overwhelming number of stranger stalking cases who cannot access any justice and support and arrive at us, desperate for help. We therefore hear first-hand from the victims and what impact the crime and/or lack of Police & CPS support has on them. Many victims we hear from are being stalked for months, even years before action happens. Even if action happens, the victim is being exposed to further harm and struggle for any help from the ongoing trauma of being stalked. When our voluntary agency is forced to intervene on cases, action happens but we feel this should be occurring as standard across the country and not dependent on us as we are not funded to provide such a service to victims.

The fundamental problem we see with these cases is that four years after the introduction of the stalking legislation, there are still far too many Police officers, especially front line officers, who are not trained or not trained effectively enough to understand and recognise stalking. This is creating a barrier for the stalking victim when they try to access justice and support and are not convinced this will change with the introduction of a Stalking Protection Order.

We have discussed these new proposals with front line Police officers and many have raised their concerns. Whilst there are potential positives, many feel there is already existing legislation such as Protection from Harassment Act and the Stalking amendments to this legislation that can and should be used for criminal investigations. Police can already charge using these legislations and there are bail conditions which can be issued upon charge and restraining orders, all in existence to help protect the victims.

If there are claims of stalking, should Police waste vital time getting a stalking protection order when the law is there to be used? Or will this be another hurdle for the victim to go through which stalls Police response and action?

Early intervention is key and why we urge Police to respond to stalking claims swiftly and robustly. With the latest figures that 1 in 5 women are stalked and there have been only a total number of 1,683 prosecutions in past 3 years, it’s obvious that there is an urgent need for proper training for both Police to investigate complaints properly and for CPS to charge with the stalking legislation and prosecute more effectively.

We believe the emphasis should still be on prompt and effective investigation and a concern with this new initiative is that it could lead to stalkers having another platform to access where they can claim they are the victim. This happens so frequently in stalking cases which Police and CPS are still failing to recognise and why Voice4Victims launched Abuse of Process campaign to tackle this problem. This new order could give rise to an Abuse of Process whereby the perpetrator uses the Police and/or courts through the Stalking Protection Order to continue stalking their victim on their behalf. We therefore hope great care and understanding will be taken before applying for such an order to prevent abuse of process taking place.

This order should not detract from the Police time needed to conduct a thorough investigation into stalking claims which should take priority as per the Victims Code. The government really needs to be focusing on how to better train officers and agencies to recognise stalking earlier on and to use the legislation in existence to protect the victim. Police must stop seeing stalking crime as a low level ‘incident’ and actually recognise it for the insidious life changing crime that it is.

In short, we expect the government to now fund better training programmes for the Police to understand stalking. Further the Police need to recognise the Abuse of Process that many stalkers use in order to harm their victims. Finally, the government needs to urgently fund easily accessible treatment programmes for the stalkers as currently there is no funded specialised clinics or therapeutic programmes to help deal with their obsessive and fixated behaviour.

Voice4Victims runs the Victims’ Law and Abuse of Process Parliamentary campaigns and continues to offer voluntary support and advice to stalking victims struggling to access justice and support.

15th September 2016 Backbench Debate on Domestic Abuse in Family Courts

A backbench business debate was held on Thursday 15 September 2016 on Domestic abuse victims in family law courts. This debate was scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee following a representation from Angela Smith, Maria Miller and Peter Kyle. This debate was sparked by a January 2016 Women’s Aid report highlighting the cases of nineteen children killed by perpetrators of domestic abuse. The killings were made possible through unsafe child contact arrangements, formal and informal. Over half of the child contact arrangements were ordered through the courts.

This report and campaign supports the Voice4Victims Abuse of Process campaign, which looks specifically at how perpetrators are abusing their rights to various legal platforms – family courts, civil courts, private prosecutions, false allegations – in order to continue their unwanted contact and harassment of their victims.

Sir Keir Starmer, MP has been supporting our work and said the following about our work during Thursday’s debate ‘ The second point that I want to make concerns the abuse of process, an issue that I think is rising on the agenda. Perpetrators of domestic abuse use our courts— both criminal and civil, but it is on the civil courts that the torch has not been shone—to continue the perpetration of control and harassment of victims. I pay tribute to Claire Waxman, herself a victim of harassment. She and Voice4Victims have raised this issue on numerous occasions. There are two types of abuse of process. First, there are the individuals who bring proceedings in which they have no legitimate interest: they are doing it simply to ensure that the person whom they have been stalking or harassing is forced to come to court to strike out their claim. Because these are people with no legitimate interest, the courts will strike out the claim when they get to grips with it, as a vexatious claim. However, the victim will have to go to court to argue that it is vexatious, and that is all that the perpetrator wants: for that person to come to court. That is what happened to Claire Waxman, and it has happened to other victims. This problem could be solved by Christmas. Again, I am looking straight across at the Government Front Bench. It ought to be possible for someone working for the senior judiciary to devise a way to ensure that such cases are subject to a special strike-out procedure that does not require the victim to go to court and take the initiative, and some third party does it instead. I honestly think that a month or two of hard work, and some real courage and determination, could produce a system whereby a practice direction could be issued and the problem could be put to one side. The second type of abuse of process is more difficult to deal with. In these cases, the perpetrator has an interest—a child, for instance—and it is therefore not possible to say that that individual simply should not be allowed to be in court at all. In those circumstances, it is a question of looking at special measures, support and different ways of arranging family and other courts to ensure that they are not used with ulterior motives, because there is growing evidence that is happening. These are difficult cases, but it must be possible to provide support for victims, special measures and, indeed, a more proactive role for judges. A big change in the criminal courts was that judges began to be much more proactive and to say, “This is my problem. I must deal with it. It is my duty to provide a better environment for victims on their journey through our courts.” What today’s debate throws up is that these issues are not going to go away. They need to be solved, and I think they can be solved across the House, but that will require listening, non-defensiveness and commitment to bringing about real change. Real change has already happened in the criminal sphere; it can happen in the family courts as well, and it need not take 15 years if lessons from one jurisdiction are borrowed by the other.’

Abuse of Process Conference 11th July

Voice4Victims is hosting the Abuse of Process conference at the House of Commons on Monday 11th July 10am – 12pm. This conference will look at the problems victims are facing when perpetrators are allowed to access legal processes to further campaigns of abuse against their victims. The impact on victims is prolonged and devastating and we will be highlighting the legal loopholes and pathways that enable this abuse to continue.

Over the past few years, there has been positive work to address some of these issues but without a joined up approach, the situation remains unresolved and means that cases brought against victims in the civil and family courts have a long-lasting and highly detrimental impact on their lives. Voice4Victims, which has led the campaign on the victims’ rights legislation, is hosting this event with the view of producing a report and launching the ‘Abuse of Process’ campaign to redress the imbalance of rights through legislation and test case advocacy.

Speakers and panelists will include: victims experience of this abuse, Sir Keir Starmer, MP, Jess Phillips, MP , Jane Monkton Smith, senior lecturer in criminology, DC Candler, Metropolitan Police, Mitchell Woolf, Human rights solicitor and Harry Fletcher, criminal justice expert, formerly NAPO. The conference will raise the issues of rights of access to courts, breaches of human rights, victim’s experience, the motivation and psychology of the perpetrator and the issue of courts and legal aid.

Queen’s Speech fails Victims of Crime

The Queens Speech yesterday highlighted this government’s commitment, or should I say, lack of commitment, to victims of crime by introducing a Bill of Rights, scrapping the Human Rights Act and failing to commit to their manifesto promise of a Victims’ Law ‘to guarantee keys entitlements to victims’. The government told us in March that a Green paper would be published by early May and yet there is no sign of it and infact, the official responsible for drawing this up has now retired!

The Human Rights Act has played an important part in my own journey as a victim of crime. When the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropped the prosecution against my stalker, stating that he had an absolute right to access the civil courts to continue his campaign of stalking, I was able to challenge this decision under the Human Rights Act that the CPS had failed in its duty to protect me. This landmark victory saved me a few years later when my stalker used the same tactic and thanks to the Human Rights Act , the CPS successfully prosecuted him and he was sentenced to 3.5 years. This victory has also set a precedent for other victims of stalking facing similar ordeals and is used to remind the Police and CPS of their duty to stalking victims suffering these forms of harassment.

The Human Rights Act has helped not only me but many other victims of crime. From the women raped by the ‘black cab rapist’ where under Article 3 of the Human Rights Act , Police had failed these victims in their investigation and in their treatment of them, to victims of slavery and human trafficking. Their landmark victories also establish a much needed precedent and hopefully will make the police aware of the consequences for failing to act and protect victims.

We’ve had a man sue the CPS for not taking further action against the man suspected of biting part of his ear off. The CPS felt the history of the victim’s mental illness would work against him at a trial. The CPS had wrongly discriminated this man for his mental health. The man was successful as the Human Rights Act showed that the CPS had failed in its duty to protect this man. This case, thanks to the Human Rights Act, has helped to challenge the CPS view of the model victim.

More recently, the Human Rights Act has helped, under Article 2, the families of the Hillsborough disaster, receive their long awaited justice.

The protection of victims of crime is fully entrenched in the Human Rights law and yet to abandon this and to continue to ignore the need for a Victims Law, giving victims’ legally enforceable rights, is to continually fail victims of crime and to silence their voice.

In 2014, as a knee jerk reaction to Labour’s manifesto, this government committed to a victims’ law, and they continue to assure us that ‘victims are at the heart’ of the justice system yet their actions of wanting to take away the Human Rights Act and not realising their promise of a Victims’ Law, shows us otherwise.

Our campaign team have spent the past three years meeting with countless victims of crime and we have extrapolated from their cases to formulate a Victims’ Law. These proposals have been strongly supported and strengthened by Sir Keir Starmer, this country’s lead in Human Rights . Together, we will challenge this government to make sure that we do not go backwards when it comes to Victim’s Rights and that this government leaves the Human Rights Act as it is. We will continue to push the government to spend its resources on focusing on the much needed Victims’ Law which will give Victims easy access to justice, fair treatment, the right support, up to date information, reviews and appeals and will enforce a much needed cultural shift in the way Victims are treated.

If you believe in the Victim’s voice and Victims’ Rights, then please continue to support our Victims’ Law campaign.

National Stalking Awareness Week #NSAW16

This week was National Stalking Awareness week and what an incredible week it’s been.

Since my journey as a stalking victim started over 12 years ago, this has been an overwhelming week of support for stalking victims and I honestly cannot believe how far we have come, although the journey still has a long way to go. I remember in those days how alone I was and how no one understood or knew what being stalked was like. Thanks to the courage of so many victims, our voices have been heard, loud and clear on the countless radio and TV interviews we have done.

But as the week draws to a close and the next news item takes our place, what do we now have to do to ensure that my story, Lily Allen’s story, Tracey Morgan’s ,Ann Mould’s, Sam Taylor’s, Rana Faruqui’s, Clare Bernal’s and Jane Clough’s and the many others, are not quickly forgotten? What do we do to make sure that lessons are learnt and improvements are made to help improve the journey to justice, support and protection for ALL stalking victims?

I know that our campaigns for a Victims’ rights law supported by Digital Trust; tackling stalking through the family and civil courts; pushing for treatment programmes for perpetrators; treatment support for victims and robust training for all agencies on stalking, is an ongoing job and could make a difference. I know others are pushing for tougher sentences and a stalker register and collectively, we are trying our hardest to protect stalking victims.

Together we hope that the Police will recognise it when a victim makes it’s first complaint. The Police will signpost them to available, local support and work hard on the victim’s behalf to bring their perpetrators to justice. The CPS will apply the stalking legislation and involve the victim in the process and that the sentences given will reflect the need for rehabilation and treatment. We want a victim to get support and protection and feel that the justice system served them well.

So with that in mind, let’s aim that by next awareness week in 2017, when the Suzy Lamplugh Trust do their next FOI requests, we will see just how far we have come and that together, we all played a part in saving and supporting so many more victims.

To everyone this week, well done for your incredible work. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.

Rights of Domestic Violence Victims Recognised

The Rights of Women have been campaigning against the evidence requirements for accessing Legal Aid, and thanks to their hard work and campaigning, they have had a victory today recognising that these requirements are legally ‘flawed’.

Today’s Judgment is a promising sign for Victims of Domestic Violence. Changes in legal aid funding have been placing victims of domestic violence at increased risk and harm in family courts. Victims are being forced to remain in contact with their abusers or stalkers. Some are being cross-examined by them or forced into court situations or inappropriate contact orders, all of which have a devastating impact on their lives, emotionally, financially and physically.

The cuts in legal aid have been denying victims of Domestic Violence access to justice and allowing abusers to use the court process to continue their abuse of their victims. Victims, through lack of legal aid support, are not able to access the support, advice and justice that they need to protect themselves from their abusers. Often gathering evidence or getting medical reports done in order to access the gateway to legal aid is timely and costly and is a great stumbling block to many victims.
Today’s judgement will hopefully put pressure on the government to rethink their legal aid strategy and ensure it is now accessible to those that need it most.

We continue to campaign for victims rights and we will be working closely over the coming months with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, Citizen Advice Bureau, Veritas Justice and other organisations, to ensure the legal loopholes that are allowing abusers to stalk and harass their victims are identified and closed down.