The controversial Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill has suffered a series of damaging defeats in the House of Lords.
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke watched on as peers rejected various proposals, including those to restrict legal support for victims of domestic violence which was defeated by 37 votes.
The Lords has shown fierce opposition to Mr Clarke's proposals to save £350m by restricting access to legal aid. Now at its committee stage, the Bill is facing another round of major amendments before it can become law, although it is possible that the Commons could overrule the Lords in later voting.
Labour QC, Lady Mallalieu, said that amendments were crucial "to show that we are not abandoning what is an essential pillar of our constitution, which is that nobody should be denied the right to go to a court of law because they can't afford it".
Under the Ministry of Justice proposals, someone who has made use of a women's refuge would no longer be able to use that experience as evidence of domestic violence. Police attendance at a scene of domestic violence, or access to medical records would also fail to qualify as proof of eligibility for legal aid. Both moves have been heavily criticised by women's groups.
The Law Society welcomed the defeat of the proposed legislation.
"This debate has highlighted a serious contradiction at the heart of the director's role, between his duty to be independent in making decisions on individual cases, and his responsibilities to his minister," they said in a statement.
Lady Scotland, the shadow attorney general, issued a warning.
"Government changes risk turning the clock back by at least a decade, placing a number of victims at unacceptable risk," she said.
"In the UK two women every week die as a result of domestic violence. And every week 230 victims need help to leave their abusive relationship," said added.
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Legal aid (FindLaw)