I read a BBC article this week about a victim who could not access legal aid. She could not pass the means test because even though she is claiming universal credit, which usually means she would automatically qualify for legal aid, she had equity in a property and this prevented the LAA from funding her application.
The property was the marital home, the Legal Aid Agency would expect her to use the equity to fund her application for a protective injunction against her abusive husband but how do they think she would get access to that equity. The abuser would not sanction a loan secured on the property, or equity release so what value does the equity bring to the legal aid table.
I have seen an increase in cases like this where we help the victim free of charge as a litigant in person (LIP) or we arrange pro bono solicitors to help. In May 2019 we helped 252 LIPs last month we saw an increase of 40% to 354.
The means test for legal aid needs a complete review and although I hear this is happening, I don’t see any action. Things are getting worse and they will continue to do so.
Mark Groves CEO