Women’s Aid, the national frontline organisation supporting women affected by domestic violence, today welcomes measures announced by the Minister for Justice that sees the abolition of the legal aid fee for victims of domestic violence as well as increased funding to frontline services supporting victims of crime. Both measures will improve supports for women and their children experiencing abuse.
The abolition of the fee for people seeking legal protection under the Domestic Violence Act has been long argued for by Women’s Aid and others such as Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) and it now brings Ireland in line with its obligations under the Istanbul Convention.
Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid says:
“In 2016, 49% of contacts with Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline and One to One Services (Dublin based) related to the legal system including legal aid issues and we have been very concerned for a long time about the delays in the legal aid process for those women who are seeking protection from domestic violence. Since September 2013, there had been a 160% increase in the application contribution (from €50 to €130). This was challenging for women we support as they simply could not pay. We know that it is in a person’s best interests to have legal representation in court, especially where there is domestic violence, and this is reflected in the high amount of advocacy and referrals we have with Legal Aid.”
Ms Martin adds:
“It was unacceptable that women at high risk from violence and intimidation were left without legal support until the fee was either paid or a successful application for a fee waiver was made. Justice delayed was justice denied and Women’s Aid is pleased with the move to abolish this fee from the 1st January 2018. The fact that a financial contribution was sought towards legal representation was not well known and many women experiencing domestic abuse only found this out when they made an application. The opportunity to apply for a waiver of this fee was also not public knowledge. The fee was an unexpected barrier to receiving protection from abuse through the courts. It was often beyond the means of many women struggling to survive.”
The announcement of increased funding for services that support victims of crime has also been welcomed by Women’s Aid as it means the organisation can continue its vital face to face support services for women experiencing abuse. Women experiencing domestic abuse are in a bleak place and it is difficult to find a way out. Our frontline services are vital and there is hope and Women’s Aid is here to help.
Ms Martin concludes:
“We know our court accompaniment service, one to one support and Dolphin House family law drop in service, make a huge difference to women taking steps to escape abusive relationships. It can be the difference between safety and remaining in a violent situation for women and children. The demand is there and we are overstretched so the commitment to fund these services is welcome.”
Anyone affected can call the Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900, open 7 days a week, www.WomensAid.ie.
For more information: Contact Christina Sherlock 087 919 2457 or email email@example.com.
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