Behind Closed Doors – reaction from a Flag DV trustee

Here at FLAG DV we have been reflecting upon the fascinating documentary Behind Closed Doors shown on ITV on 14th  February and shown again yesterday (available on ITV player).

The programme makers had unprecedented access to the Thames Valley Police Domestic Abuse Investigation Unit and the victims / survivors they work alongside. Filmed over a 12 month period, and starting from the moment a 999 call is received, the film followed three brave women, who shared their experiences to help the wider public gain an understanding of the issue of domestic abuse.

Personally, the documentary evoked in me a number of emotions, and I must admit many of them were negative. Continue reading

Legal aid cuts: courts may make faulty decision on domestic violence

Scales of JusticeToday, 13 May, sees the publication of the Response of the Judicial Executive Board to the Justice Committee Inquiry. (“the Response.”).

This publication is about judicial experience of the impact of the legal aid cuts which came into effect in April 2013 as set out by the country’s most senior judges. The Lord Chief Justice who is the “Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales“, “exercises executive and leadership responsibilities through, and with the support of, the Judicial Executive Board“.

Our observations are set out below.

1. The impact of the legal cuts is nothing short of shocking.

“[the cuts could have a]…. significant impact on the efficiency and aptitude of the courts to achieve an equitable result in those cases where litigants in person are unable to afford to commission expert evidence….. Examples of expert evidence which are seen as critically important are …… police logs and Crime Report Information System material to elucidate e.g. those cases in which domestic violence is alleged, risk assessment in relation to e.g. sexual abuse….”

“Significant injustice may result from inability to instruct experts and meet the costs of required disclosure …. Faulty decisions about domestic violence or sexual abuse may be the result of an absence of police disclosure.”

2. The vulnerable are suffering as a result of the cuts, including children.

“The potential litigants who we believe have seen the most pronounced consequences are …. separated parents with children …..”

3. Families have been disproportionately effected by the cuts.

“…. large increase in the number of cases where one or both parties do not have legal representation – most prominently in private family law litigation.”

4. The Response also suggests that the cuts may be a false economy.

“In the family courts judicial perception is that private law appointments where both sides are unrepresented typically take in the region of 50% longer…”

The full publication can be viewed here.

Doing it for the Kids

We’re taking the title of this week’s post from the world of pop and Mr Robbie Williams “Doing it for the kids” because it encapsulates such an important part of what we do.

How does domestic violence and abuse affect children?
There’s no easy way to say it but children die at the hands of abusive parents. In one study 5% of pregnant women reported miscarriage as a result of domestic violence.

You may have been following the case of alleged murder which is in trial at the moment. If proven, 4 year old Daniel Pelka will join the horrific figure of 33 children murdered by parents each year.

Children are often not just on the sidelines when domestic abuse take place. The suffer sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect or abduction.

Children are harmed by domestic abuse whether they are directly abused or not. A huge 90% of children in households where there is domestic violence and abuse are thought to be in the same or the next room.

Singer Jahmene Douglas has spoken openly about the violence and abuse both he and his mother suffered at the hands of his father.

His brother took his own life.

He has said

I think that living in fear is one of the worst things that you can go through

It’s not easy to leave

Remaining in a relationship of abuse is harmful to children.

However, we understand that leaving may also bring its own difficulties for children. For the children of people who leave abusive relationships, they may lose their home, a parent or parent figure, their room, friends, family and possessions and they may have to change school. These changes could be huge in the life of a child.

Protection, Empowerment and Choice

Our top priority for children who live in abusive households is the protection of those children and we adhere to good principles of safeguarding children.

We believe that in so far as the law can help with this, protection is best given to children by providing victims of domestic violence and abuse with legal advice about their rights and responsibilities.

Through understanding their legal rights and responsibilities we believe that people are empowered to make the choices that are right for them and their children.

Why do we do what we do?

As we get ready for FLAG DV’s official launch in October 2013 and the start of our free legal advice surgeries for domestic violence, we have been reflecting on our reasons for setting up this new charity.

Perhaps these reasons explain why we have received so much support from so many people for which we are truly grateful.

West Berkshire is Nice ….

According to the Halifax Quality of Life Survey, West Berkshire is the 20th best rural place to live in the UK. According to the district profile it suffers from very low levels of deprivation being in the bottom eighth of areas in England.

…. but

The thing about domestic violence and abuse is that it is pervasive in all communities including West Berkshire. Research suggests that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse during their lifetime.

Similarly around 12% women and up to 8% men experience abuse in every year.

We estimate that there are up to 6000 people experiencing domestic abuse each year in West Berkshire.

Domestic abuse is rarely a one off.

Many people who experience abuse do so many times over. Domestic violence and abuse results in the deaths of around 100 women and 20 men per year.

Often children are bereaved in horrific circumstances when this occurs. In a recent Channel 4 programme “Murder Workers” the wonderful work of victim support was highlighted as was the horror of domestic homicide.

In the programme five-year-old Maisie started to talk about what she had seen. She took the family photographs and in each one with her father she covered his face

All the pictures with Mum — they’re my favourites,’ she said. ‘But not with Dad. Because he killed Mum.

It’s simple really why we do what we do.

If we empower people through the work we do, we can promote choice and improve safety.

New Legal Advice Charity for Domestic Violence puts Best Foot Forward

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Some of the participants in the Newbury Legal Walk 2013.

Championed by Vodafone, Newbury Legal Walk is an event to provide support and funding for legal advice charities in West Berkshire. This year, for the first time, the Free Legal Advice Group for Domestic Violence (or FLAG DV for short) is entering a team to raise funding for their new legal advice charity in Newbury. Helen Grimbleby, Trustee of FLAG DV and pictured with other walkers said “We are delighted to be taking part in this event, alongside Vodafone, and we hope that we can raise money and awareness of this important issue.”

FLAG DV is dedicated to protecting and empowering victims of domestic violence and abuse. The charity is fundraising to launch its free legal advice surgery in Newbury, West Berkshire by October 2013. Trained, experienced legal advisors will provide people with free, confidential advice on a one to one basis to ensure they understand their choices in law.

Helen said, “There are at least 6000 victims of domestic violence and abuse, both men and women, in West Berkshire. Victims come from all walks of life, class or community; they are of any age and come from any ethnic group or religion. Around 5 victims a month will require an emergency court order to ensure their safety or that of their children or their property.”

Victims of domestic abuse have complex legal needs. They may be facing homelessness or debt, they may need help finalising their relationship or doing the best for their children. Most do not know their legal rights. Most cannot easily find out what their legal rights are. Legal aid is vanishing and people are afraid to approach solicitors. FLAG DV wants to bridge that gap.

Helen added “I am overwhelmed by the support we have received both from lawyers, businesses and members of the public. Our team is a mixture of lawyers and other supporters – and we are hoping for more to join us. You do not have to be a lawyer to take part in the Newbury Legal Walk.”

The 4 mile Newbury Legal Walk will take place on Monday 20th May from Vodafone’s main office. For further information on FLAG DV, how to register for free and on the walk itself please contact www.flagdv.org.uk. You can also contact newburylegalwalk@flagdv.org.uk .

For donations of £10 or more please go to www.flagdv.org.uk/donate and The Greenham Common Trust will double your money, other donations from £2 can be made at www.virginmoneygiving.com/flagdv

Your donations doubled and more!

Free Legal Advice Group for Domestic Violence (FLAG DV) can now accept donations

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Findmeagrant is a public web portal that is transforming local fundraising by making it easier for local charities and community groups to source grants and attract public donations for projects and services”.

Donating through the portal will more than double the value of your donation to our charity (up to £5,000).

Greenham Common Trust will match your donation and will claim gift aid on your donation. Every £10 donated is worth £22.50 to FLAG DV!

What more can we say except please give generously!

Can you help us provide the right advice by taking this survey?

Flag DV has launched a short online survey to ensure that it provides the right legal advice to victims of domestic violence and abuse.

If you have experienced domestic violence or abuse in the past 2 years, please help us to help others access the right advice by completing our survey!

The survey is just 9 questions long and should take no more than 10-15 minutes to complete.

Click here to take survey

Legal Aid in the News Again

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As the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill 2010-11 reaches the committee stage in the House of Lords, Welsh Women’s Aid and Right of Women have published research on the potential impact of the legislation. Just under 1000 … Continue reading

Stalking – Does the Law need Changing?

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Here are some of the headlines in the press and media this week as the Home Office launches its consultation on stalking: Stalking may become criminal offence – Telegraph Stalking must be a crime, Labour’s Yvette Cooper says – BBC … Continue reading

Will victims of domestic abuse be worse off with the proposed Legal Aid changes?

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Introduction Today, 31 October 2001 sees the Report Stage of The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill in the House of Commons. This Bill fundamentally alters the way in which the state funds legal advice and representation (legal … Continue reading