Legal aid for victims of domestic violence

If you are a victim of domestic violence and are divorcing or separating from an abusive partner you can get legal aid to help. This can be help with the divorce or things such as child contact or how to share  money or property.
 
There are many forms of domestic violence and it is not just about physical violence. To get legal aid you must be able to give your solicitor some evidence that you have been a victim of domestic violence by your partner.

Types of evidence:

Evidence of criminal convictions for a domestic violence offence

If your ex-partner has a criminal conviction in the UK for a domestic violence offence against you, this will count as evidence. It will not count if the conviction is ‘spent’. 
 
If you do not already have a written record of the conviction (such as a letter from the police) you will need to get a record of the conviction for your legal aid application.

  1. Check that the offence your ex-partner was given a caution for was for a domestic violence offence.
  2. You will need to know the court where your ex-partner was sentenced You can either write to court or visit them in person. [Information on  magistrates’ and Crown Courts] Sometimes a case is heard in a magistrates’ court, but sentenced in the Crown Court. The magistrates’ court should be able to tell you where the sentencing took place. If you do not know the court, you could ask the police officer who was leading the investigation.
  3. You should complete either the Crown Court template letter or Magistrates Court template letter as much as you can and send it to the relevant court. You may have to pay a fee for the copy of the record. Do NOT send your letter to the court’s legal aid unit if it has one.

If the offence took place outside the United Kingdom then this can also be used but the Legal Aid Agency will  decide whether or not to accept it. You should write to the relevant law enforcement agency in the country where the offence took place asking for confirmation of the conviction.

You should ask them to provide this in English if possible. If they cannot provide the evidence in English, you will need to provide both the original letter or document from the relevant agency, with a translation into English.

Evidence of a Police caution for a domestic violence offence

If your ex-partner has been given a Police caution for a domestic violence offence against you in the UK within the last two years  this will count as evidence for legal aid.
 
You will need a written record of the caution (such as a letter from the police) for your legal aid application.

  1. Check that the offence your ex-partner was given a caution for was for a domestic violence offence.
  2. Complete this template letter as much as you can and send it to the Data Protection Officer at the police force which gave the caution.
 

Evidence of relevant Police bail for a domestic violence offence

If your ex-partner has been given relevant Police bail pending charge for a domestic violence offence against you in the UK where the bail is current, this will count as evidence for legal aid.

You will need a written record of the police bail pending charge for a domestic violence offence (such as a letter from the police) for your legal aid application.

  1. Check that the offence your ex-partner was given police bail pending charge for, was for a domestic violence offence.
  2. Complete this template letter as much as you can and send it to the Data Protection Officer at the police force which gave the police bail.

Evidence of ongoing criminal proceedings for a domestic violence offence

 If your ex-partner has been charged with a domestic violence offence against you within the UK but has yet to be convicted in a court then that will count as evidence for legal aid.  
If you do not already have a written record of this (such as a letter from the police) you will need to get a copy of the charge sheet for your legal aid application.
 
Complete the caution template letter as much as you can and send it to the Data Protection Officer of the police force that arrested your ex-partner.

Evidence of a protective injunction

A ‘protective injunction’ is a court order that would have told your ex-partner not to harass or threaten you or your children.
 
The following types of protective injunctions can be used for a legal aid application:
 
England and Wales

  • Non-molestation order
  • Occupation order
  • Forced marriage protection order
  • Restraining order

Scotland

  • Non-harassment order
  • Matrimonial, domestic or relevant interdict
  • Forced marriage protection order
  • Exclusion order

Northern Irish injunctions

  • Restraining order
  • Forced marriage protection order
  • Occupation order
  • Non-molestation order
If one of the protective injunctions above is currently in force against your ex-partner to protect you, or if it has ended but was made within the last two years, then this can be used as evidence for legal aid.

You will need a copy of the order for your legal aid claim. You or your solicitor should have been given a copy of the order when it was issued.

If you need to get a copy of the order complete either the protective injunction template letter or the restraining order letter template as much as you can and send it to the relevant court. You may have to pay a fee for a copy of the order.

An undertaking given in place of a protective injunction

An undertaking is where someone promises the court to stop doing certain things e.g. not to harass or threaten you, and the court accepts this instead of making a protective injunction.
 
If your ex-partner has given an undertaking to a court in the UK instead of them making an order to protect you in the last two years then this can be used as evidence to get legal aid.
 
You must not have given the court a similar undertaking not to e.g. harass or threaten your partner.

You should have been given a copy of the court order containing the undertaking, if you need to get a copy of the order then complete the undertaking template letter and send it to the relevant court.

You may have to pay a fee for a copy of the order.

Evidence of being subject to a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) plan

A MARAC is a group of local agencies (such as the police, doctors and social services) who come together to make plans to protect and help high-risk victims of domestic violence.
 
If a MARAC has made a plan to protect you from your ex-partner in the last two years then this can be used as evidence for legal aid.
 
You will need a letter from the MARAC Chairman which confirms that they have made a plan to protect you from your ex-partner within the last two years.
 
Either contact your local police’s public protection unit by phone/email or complete and send the MARAC template letter.

Finding of fact of domestic violence by a court

A finding of fact is where a judge in a non-criminal case decides whether domestic violence has occurred in a particular case.

If there has been a finding of fact in a UK court of domestic violence against you by your ex-partner then this can be used as evidence. The finding of fact would be recorded on a court order and you should have been given a copy and you will need this for your legal aid claim.

If you no longer have a copy please complete the finding of fact template letter and send it to the relevant court. You may have to pay a fee for a copy of the order.

 

Evidence from social services confirming domestic violence, or evidence of a refusal of entry to a refuge due to insufficient accommodation

If social services have assessed you in the last two years as being at risk of domestic violence by your ex-partner then this can be used as evidence. You will need a copy of the assessment showing both your name and your ex-partners name as the abuser.
 
If you do not have a copy, or it does not have the right information on it, then complete this social services template letter and send it to your local social services department.
 

Letter from a doctor, nurse, practitioner psychologist confirming injuries or a condition consistent with domestic violence

If a doctor (including a GP), nurse, midwife, practitioner psychologist or health visitor saw you in the last two years because you had injuries or a condition from domestic violence caused by your ex-partner then this can be used as evidence for legal aid.

A ‘condition’ can include mental or psychological conditions, such as depression, as well as physical conditions.
 
You will need a letter from the doctor, nurse, midwife, practitioner psychologist  or health visitor who saw you that confirms that when they examined you, you had a condition that was consistent with domestic violence. To get a copy of a letter:

  1. Complete this medical evidence template letter as much as possible and send it to the place where you were seen, addressing it to the health professional you saw.
  2. If you do not know their name, or they no longer work there, you should contact your GP or the hospital where you were seen and another GP or health professional who has access to your medical notes and will be able to advise you and to provide the letter.
  3. You may be asked to pay a fee for the letter by the health professional.

Evidence from a domestic violence support organisation confirming stay in a refuge due to domestic violence, or evidence of a refusal of entry to a refuge due to insufficient accommodation

If you stayed at a refuge in the last two years then this can be used as evidence for legal aid. If you were refused entry to a refuge in the last two years, due to there being insufficient accommodation, this can also be used as evidence.

You will need a letter from the refuge confirming when you last stayed there and that it was because of domestic violence.  If you were unable to access accommodation, you will need a letter from the refuge confirming the date when you were refused entry to the refuge and the reason for that refusal.

To request a letter to confirm your stay there, or that you were refused entry, complete this refuge template letter and send it to the refuge which you stayed at or were refused entry to, or take the letter there in person.

 

Evidence confirming a referral by a health professional to a domestic violence support service

If you have been referred by your GP or other health professional to a domestic violence specialist support service then this can be used as evidence. 

If you have it, you can provide a copy of the referral document itself which can be used as evidence. If you do not have a copy of the referral, you can provide a letter, either from the domestic violence specialist support service or the referring health professional, confirming the referral was made. 

To request a letter, complete this domestic violence specialist support service template letter and send it to the domestic violence specialist support service, addressing it to the person you have been referred to, or take the letter there in person.

Evidence of a Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN) or a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO)

A DVPN is a notice which can be issued by the police where it is necessary to protect someone from violence or the threat of violence, subject to certain criteria being met. Where a notice is issued the police must apply to a magistrates’ court for a DVPO. The Magistrates may issue a DVPO with various prohibitions, if the court is persuaded that it is necessary to protect someone from violence or the threat of violence, subject to certain criteria being met. The notices and orders are designed to offer immediate protection after a domestic violence incident. 

If a DVPO (or a DVPN, where this has not been replaced by a  DVPO) has been made against your ex-partner within a twenty four month period before the date of your application, this will qualify as evidence for legal aid.

You will need a copy of the DVPN or the DVPO for your legal aid claim. You should have been given a copy of the order when it was issued. 

If you need to get a copy of the order complete either the DVPO template letter in as much detail as you can and send it to the relevant court. You may have to pay a fee for a copy of the order. You may also ask the police for a copy of the order. 

Evidence of a Bind over for an alleged domestic violence offence

If your ex-partner has been given a bind over in relation to an alleged domestic violence offence against you in the UK, this will count as evidence for legal aid.

You will need a written record of the bind over for an alleged domestic violence offence (such as the order from the court) for your legal aid application. This can be a copy of the order itself, or may be a letter from the Criminal Prosecution Service or the police confirming that the bind over has been made. If you do not have a written record, please follow these steps.

  1. Check that the offence your ex-partner was bound over for was for an alleged domestic violence offence.
  2. Complete one of the below template letters in as much detail as you can and send it to the court which gave the bind over.
 

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