Children who suffer brain damage during birth and victims of domestic violence will be entitled to legal aid to bring court cases after the Ministry of Justice announced significant concessions to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill.
Voting on the bill is due to commence in the House of Lords on Monday.
The controversial bill is set to drastically cut legal aid service provision in a wide range of areas, with the intention to cut some £350m or so from the total legal aid bill.
However, two important amendments were tabled on Wednesday this week, with the view of heading off defeat in the House of Lords when voting takes place next week.
The bill has attracted significant criticism, as many believe it will limit access to justice for the poorest and most marginalised in society, including asylum seekers and victims of domestic violence.
The Government has recently suffered damaging defeats on their health and welfare reform proposals, and so it would seem that this time they are willing to make concessions to drive their proposals through.
Announcing the changes to the proposed bill, a Ministry spokesperson said: "The Government is committed to supporting victims of domestic violence. We have laid an amendment to the legal aid bill which will put it beyond doubt that those who have suffered physical, psychological or financial domestic abuse will continue to receive a legal aid to help them to resolve any separation disputes over property or child contact."
The crucial change involved widening the definition of what would qualify as domestic violence. This would now include psychological abuse, which includes when a person must change their behaviour through fear, or when a person is isolated from family and friends due to intimidating, insulting or threats of harm to themselves directly, or to their children.
The Ministry also accepted that clinical negligence claims for obstetric cases which resulted in brain damage to newborn babies must also receive legal aid support.
The bill aims to replace most clinical negligence cases with a no-win, no-fee legal representation. These cases will then be funded privately by insurance companies representing the medical profession and not by the exchequer.
Read more on the story (The Guardian)
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