The government will now define domestic violence in the same way as the Association of Chief Police Officer's definition:
“any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (whether psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between individuals who are associated with each other.”People who have been recent victims of domestic violence according to this definition will now have access to legal aid when they are dealing with their abuser in court on issues such as ownership of the former matrimonial home, maintenance and access to property — the government had never proposed withdrawing the assistance from those seeking protective injunctions to defend themselves from domestic abuse.
Clarke also agreed to accept a wider range of evidence of domestic violence than originally planned and to extend from one to two years the time limit of the triggering incident of abuse.
The government wants to cut £450m from the legal aid budget. Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly told the Commons that:
“our approach is one with a principled basis of focusing scarce resources on the most urgent and serious cases while seeking a broader shift to earlier resolution of disputes.”It rejected other Lords amendments, including one that sought to to stop the government abolishing face-to-face advice on legal aid. Djanogly argued that phone-based advice has been shown often to be more convenient and accessible than face-to-face advice, particularly benefiting those living in remote areas or those who have a physical disability. He told MPs that trained operators would transfer callers to face-to-face providers if telephone advice was not appropriate.
Opponents were unconvinced; Labour's Sadiq Khan and Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes expressing fears that many vulnerable people will be deterred from seeking support. Khan asked “how many of the Ministers on the Front Bench conduct their surgeries exclusively by telephone”.
The Bill's ping pong will resume on 23 April.