Domestic victims "lack access to justice"

Women's Aid film

Legal experts claim that access to justice for victims of domestic violence is getting worse.

The Ministry of Justice has announced changes to legal aid that, they say, means it is easier now for alleged victims to access help.

But others claim that while the changes are a step in the right direction, unless it is made easier still, much domestic violence will go on unpunished.

Every day one in four women in the UK suffer from domestic violence. Women's charities and lawyers say that legal aid cuts last year have resulted in more women staying in abusive relationships because they can't afford to escape.

One victim told ITV Tyne Tees that she suffered horrendous sexual violence at the hands of her former partner and became afraid for her daughter. She tried to protect her by stopping her abuser from seeing her, but he is fighting for access through the courts. Sarah doesn't qualify for legal aid because she receives housing benefit.

"To do the best for my daughter I want to provide her with a warm house, but I also need to keep her safe so I feel my choices are to not have a house or to not keep her safe, I just feel stuck. "

In a separate case a woman told ITV Tyne Tees that her ex-partner sexually abused her daughter. When she discovered what was happening she immediately stopped any contact with him. He is also trying to get access through the courts and again she is not eligible for legal aid to fight him in court. She says that she is building up a huge debt by borrowing money to pay for legal fees.

"I just haven't got the money, now my family is scrimping and scraping for every penny. It is all tearing us apart because all we want to do is protect my daughter. "It is not fair, there are murderers out there who get a home when they come out of prison, their name is changed and they are protected. "It is all wrong and then there is the likes of us who just need to help to protect my daughter to make sure she has a happy life. We are living a life of hell."

Solicitor, Cris McCurley, says that it is hard to get victims of domestic abuse to fit the limited criteria to qualify for legal aid. That means that vulnerable women are not getting the help they need.

The Ministry of Justice says changes will hopefully help domestic violence victims who fit the correct category, but many women will be forced to continue to battle their abusers.

Help is on hand for those who have suffered from domestic abuse through the charity Women's Aid.

Here is Julie Harrison's full report.