Victim-survivors of domestic abuse are among those most in need of legal advice and representation. However, many are not able to access it because of the legal aid means test.
The means test assesses income and capital and is designed to determine whether applicants can afford to pay legal bills.
Our report, Denied justice, shows that the means test in England and Wales is preventing victim-survivors from accessing legal aid by not taking account of the economic abuse they have experienced. The means test often deems their income or capital too high for support from legal aid, even though the abuser’s behaviour means they cannot access their income or assets.
Of the women we spoke to, a significant number were living in poverty and struggling to afford essentials, like food for their children, yet were refused legal aid.
As a result of the means test, many victim-survivors of domestic abuse find themselves without any funds to pay for legal advice or representation.
Many of the women we spoke to resorted to costly loans or self-representation through complex legal proceedings. More victim-survivors who responded to our survey had to self-represent in legal proceedings than were able to access legal aid.
As the report shows, without legal aid victim-survivors are:
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