Last night in the House of Lords Peers there were eight vote covering the need for the Bill to contain a statement of the principle of legal aid, the criteria for obtaining legal aid for domestic violence cases, the scope of civil legal aid in the future and an exemption from new no win, no fee rules for asbestos related diseases.
Peers voted to insist on three of the amendments (on the statement of principle, domestic violence criteria and the exemption for mesothelioma cases). In relation to domestic violence cases, Peers argued that the Government concessions did not yet go far enough and voted to extend the evidence criteria to include letters of support from domestic violence support organisations and other evidence at the court’s discretion.
Peers also argued that the Government’s proposed time-limit applying to evidence in such cases (initially 12 months, but doubled to 24 months when the Bill was in the Commons last week) was still inadequate and voted to link this to the general limitation period, i.e. six years.
Domestic violence amendments
Peers voted (by 239 – 236) in support of Motion B1, proposed by Baroness Scotland. The motion read:
“That this House do not insist on its Amendments 192 and 194 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 193A, 219A and 220A, and do not insist on its Amendments 2 and 196 but do propose Amendments 2B and 196B as amendments in lieu”
So in summary Peers have voted for the following:
Amendments 193A, 219A and 220A – which Peers agreed – relate to the definition of domestic violence, and bring it fully in line with that used by ACPO.
Amendment 2B – also agreed – puts the list of acceptable evidence for obtaining legal aid in a domestic violence case onto the face of the Bill.
Amendment 196B – again agreed – puts into the Bill a statement to the effect that in relation to the evidence in Amendment 2B the only time limit that shall apply will be “the general limitation period” (which is generally six years).