From Policy to Practice: Critiquing the Implementation of the Domestic Abuse Advocacy Scheme in Family Proceedings from the Perspectives of Qualified Legal Representatives and Key Stakeholders

Ana Speed, Kayliegh Richardson, Mariah Donnelly*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Allegations of domestic abuse are raised in up to 62% of private law children cases and 38% of financial remedy cases. With increasing numbers of litigants in person in the family courts owing to legal aid cuts brought about by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, the Domestic Abuse Advocacy Scheme was introduced to address situations where an unrepresented alleged victim or perpetrator of abuse is unable to directly cross-examine the other party, following a prohibition on this practice (either on a mandatory or discretionary basis) introduced by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. The scheme provides that if is in the interests of justice, and no other satisfactory alternative is available, the court must appoint a Qualified Legal Representative (QLR) to conduct the cross examination on a publicly funded basis. In the first study to evaluate the implementation of the scheme since its introduction in July 2022, this paper presents the findings of in-depth interviews with twelve QLRs and key stakeholders. The findings identify ‘teething’ issues relating to the administration of the scheme and more complex ongoing issues relating to its design, both of which undermine its sustainability and capacity to improve access to justice for victims of domestic abuse. By providing context to these issues, the research endeavours to assist in guiding future amendments to the scheme and policy in this area.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChild and Family Law Quarterly
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Jun 2024

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