Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner has backed a national campaign to end charges for domestic violence victims to access legal aid.
Currently, victims applying for legal aid need to provide evidence that they have experienced domestic abuse, in order to help take their case to court.
An accepted form of evidence is a letter from a GP, which some GPs are charging up to £75 to provide.
The issue has been highlighted by MP Tom Watson, who has started a Scrap the Fee petition to abolish the charges.
PCC Barry Coppinger has written a letter to his partners urging them to sign the petition.
Mr Coppinger said: “Entering the legal system as a domestic violence victim is already an incredibly brave thing to do and the last thing they need is to face financial difficulty in order to access legal aid.
“I fully support Mr Watson’s campaign and I have contacted my partners in the Cleveland area who have advised that this is a common experience for many victims in our region.
“Victims suffer enough and GPs simply should not be allowed to charge them for access to the justice system.”
Becky Rogerson, Chief Officer at My Sister’s Place, said: “We have dozens of victims being asked to jump through hoops to gain access to legal representation. It is yet another barrier to justice for victims, who are simply trying to keep themselves safe.
“These charges add another layer to the burdens on a victim at a time when they are at their most vulnerable and least able to cope.
“Some GPs seem to charge whatever they like and make their own judgements about what constitutes domestic violence.
“Legal protection is a human right in this country – a right we extend to serious offenders but seem to be denying to victims, unless they can afford to pay an access charge. It’s seriously wrong.”
Find out more about the Scrap the Fee campaign and sign the petition here: http://www.tom-watson.com/scrapthefee
Posted on Friday 16th December 2016