BBK solicitors attend Parliament to discuss protecting women from violence | Bolt Burdon Kemp BBK solicitors attend Parliament to discuss protecting women from violence | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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BBK solicitors attend Parliament to discuss protecting women from violence

As part of Bolt Burdon Kemp’s commitment to supporting survivors of abuse, BBK solicitors Emma Barrow and Hayyin Fan had the opportunity to attend the Houses of Parliament for a discussion about protecting victims of domestic violence.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) event on Access to Justice heard how abusive partners are being buoyed by a legal system that is not safeguarding women and victims of violence.

The purpose of this APPG was to highlight the importance of access to justice as a fundamental principle of the rule of law and empower individuals to exercise their rights, challenge discrimination, and reduce inequalities.

The event, which took place on Tuesday, February 27 2024, comprised a brilliant panel of experts dedicated to promoting social justice and securing change for survivors of domestic abuse.

The panel and the topics covered

The panel was chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, a distinguished human rights barrister, with speakers all inspiring advocates for the rights of women, including:

  • Laura Farris MP, Minister for Victims Safeguarding;
  • Alex Davies-Jones MP, Shadow Minster for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding,
  • Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales,
  • Jenny Beck KC (Hon), co-chair of LAPG and chair of the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory
  • Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs OBE, founder and CEO of Surviving Economic Abuse and an Expert by Experience.

The panel covered a variety of topics such as the legislative progress that has been made to protect women against violence to date, the family justice system, the vital role of legal aid and the impact cuts to funding has on access to legal help, the long-lasting impact of economic abuse and coercive control.

We also had the opportunity to hear a first-hand account of a survivor who experienced domestic abuse and her story of how she overcame it.

An overarching issue that fed into all of the panellists’ discussion topics was that of legal aid. It was really emphasised that the state of the legal aid system today has created an uneven playing field in family court cases between survivors of domestic violence and their ex-partners.

Often it is the abuser who has control of the finances and the ability to afford legal representation from top lawyers.

On the other side, their victims are forced to utilise a system that simply does not work. It means that right from the beginning of the court case, the abuser has the power and the upper hand.

Speaker Jenny Beck KC explained that legal aid rates have stayed the same for 30 years, however legal costs have risen significantly. It means that legal aid lawyers are not being paid the true sum of their work which has forced much of the top talent to work in different fields.

As a result victims are left with very junior staff working on what are often complex cases involving domestic violence, coercive and economic control. There is an ongoing serious risk that coercive and economic control can be overlooked or ignored because they are often subtle and difficult to spot.

Jenny Beck KC, with her decades of experience in family law, painted a bleak picture of abusive partners being emboldened by a legal system that is supposed to provide justice and safety for women and victims of violence.

Clearly changes to the legal aid system are needed. One suggestion made by the panel included the provision of legal advice much earlier on in the family court process so that victims are empowered from the beginning with the understanding and knowledge of the law that protects them.

Another suggested change was for the means-tested hurdle in the legal aid application process to be removed, as it is preventing women from gaining access to justice. It was clear from Jenny Beck KC’s words that the application process in its entirety needs an overhaul to remove the hurdles that are currently stifling justice.

BBK’s commitment to access to justice

Bolt Burdon Kemp recognises the importance of everyone deserving proper legal representation and a fair chance at justice. That’s why we are dedicated to raising awareness of the legal options available to survivors of abuse.

In our experience, civil claims can often help survivors to hold individuals, as well as institutions, to account for the abuse they suffered. We understand financial compensation can never undo what an abuser has done, but it can assist survivors in rebuilding their lives as part of their healing process.

If we think you have a good civil claim, we will do our best to find a way to fund it for you.

A civil claim for compensation can help to put you back in the position you should have been in, had you not experienced abuse. For example, it can provide funding for treatment and therapy, compensate you for loss of earnings and provide damages for the pain and suffering you went through.

As part of providing you with independent advice, we will explore the funding options with you, such as legal aid and legal expenses insurance.

Legal aid may be available where someone has been abused as a result of failings by a public authority. If your claim qualifies, and you are financially eligible for legal aid, we will let you know if we think an application will be successful.

If we are confident that you have a good claim for compensation, we will also offer to act for you on a “no win, no fee” basis. This means that as long as you stick to your obligations, should you lose, you will pay nothing at all.

If we think you have a case, we can also fund private therapy whilst your claim is ongoing, to ensure that you get the right support and treatment as part of the road to recovery as soon as possible.

Hayyin & Emma’s thoughts

To share our concluding remarks on the event:

Hayyin: “Attending this event and listening to the inspiring discussion of the panel was a huge privilege.

“Increasing access to justice and ensuring legal aid is available to those who have experienced domestic abuse is paramount. I know from my clients’ experiences of reporting their cases to the police that the criminal process can be incredibly difficult and stressful.

“I welcome the steps taken to reduce the backlog in the criminal courts dealing with rape convictions, and it is so important that survivors have proper support in navigating the criminal justice system in order to move forward, heal and find closure.”

Emma: “Hearing the story of the brave panellist who has experienced firsthand domestic abuse was truly sobering and powerful.

“Her experiences really brought home to everyone the devastation that domestic abuse causes and how important it is that we have a legal system in place to support survivors and give them a proper chance of rebuilding their lives.

“The passion and commitment that emanated from all the panel speakers was inspiring to witness and I hope that they amongst other professionals will continue to drive much-needed change in the legal system.”

If you would like help discussing the different routes to justice, you can contact us at any time for some free and confidential advice on the right option for you.

This blog was co-authored by Hayyin Fan and Emma Barrow, both Solicitors in the Abuse team at BBK.

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