Annalisa Barbieri: We're making it easier for violent men

It may not affect you. But nobody plans to become a victim of abuse


We all know politicians can lie, but it's only when you know a little bit about something that you realise just what honkers they're capable of coming out with. Yesterday, on the Today programme. the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke was discussing the proposed changes to the legal aid scheme of the Legal Aid Bill. Wharra mouthful! Want to zone out? That's exactly what the Government hopes for. According to Ken, this reform "doesn't close anybody's access to justice at all." Instead, it's about [cutting down the] "amount of money we pay to lawyers". Clever that. Everyone has a story about a greedy lawyer, as QC Clarke must know. But Ken is not telling us the whole truth.

The proposed changes to legal aid will hit many vulnerable people hard. Here, I want to concentrate on its impact on victims of domestic violence. Nearly two women every minute are subject to domestic violence. Each week, two women will be killed by a current or former partner. Clare Wood – whose case inspired the controversial "Clare's Law" which will allow women to find out if their partners have a history of violence against women– is an example. She was strangled and set on fire by an abusive ex-boyfriend.

To know that a woman – someone's daughter, mum, sister – is regularly raped, beaten, threatened is heinous enough, but imagine enduring such violence – sometimes daily – in your own home, a place where you're meant to feel safe. You don't need legal aid to pack a suitcase to escape a controlling partner. But you do if you need help to fight him in the courts for, say, child safety orders. With the proposed changes to the law, victims will have to jump through impossible hoops.

If they can't answer yes to questions such as "Is there a non-molestation order in place?" or "Has there been a criminal conviction for domestic violence or child abuse?", there will be no legal aid. There are various other, unrealistic criteria. More than half of the victims currently getting legal aid say they would no longer qualify.

And all of this at a time when their self esteem is at rock bottom and their lives – and maybe that of their children – are being threatened. How very easy it is for a man like Ken Clarke and his colleagues to not understand what this means, and yet how very important it is that they should.

It's easy to think this bill doesn't affect you – but nobody plans to become a domestic violence victim. None of us knows when we may need this legal aid, or when our children might. Domestic violence happens behind closed doors: all other doors should remain open to the victims.

Annalisa Barbieri is patron of Rights of Women.


React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Hilary Mantel in 2003 - years before she released a short story, in which she fantasised about the death of Margaret Thatcher  

In what universe is Hilary Mantel's imaginary assassination of Margret Thatcher worthy of police investigation?

Matthew Norman
Noddy Holder must be glad he wrote 'Merry Xmas Everybody' as he'll earn £800,000 this year from royalties.  

Noddy Holder: A true rock ’n’ roll hero, and a role model for sensible people everywhere

Rosie Millard
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam