Scrap the Fee
The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert, has joined other PCCs across the country calling on Health Minister Jeremy Hunt to scrap the fee charged to domestic abuse victims seeking legal aid.
Due to recent legislation changes, domestic abuse victims now have to apply for legal aid. However to qualify for support they need to provide specific evidence to prove that they have been subjected to such abuse. One of the accepted forms of evidence is a letter from a GP - a letter that some GPs are charging fees to provide (as much as £75 in some instances).
The concerns raised by Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson's "scrap the fee" campaign have been echoed by Gwent PCC Jeff Cuthbert who is demanding a fair process for abuse victims.
Mr Cuthbert said: "I fully support the call to scrap the fee for the domestic violence doctor's note. The focus should be on how we can best help people who are in their greatest hour of need and it is an insult that some people are even being asked to prove they are victims before they can access legal aid. We are talking here about some of the most vulnerable members of our community and it should be the right of victims of domestic violence to gain legal aid, not a privilege. They are often trying to escape from a violent relationship and are trying to protect their children, so they should not be burdened with anything else. We are calling on the Government to scrap the fee and the need for a GP letter."
16 PCCs, including Gwent PCC Jeff Cuthbert have added their name to the letter to Jeremy Hunt, and Justice Secretary Liz Truss is also being urged to scrap the need for the GP letter all together.
Not all GPs apply these charges, and the amounts being charged vary. But to ensure that victims receive a consistent, equitable, and fair service across the UK, the campaign is calling for the service to be provided under the NHS so the fees are abolished.
To find out more about Scrap the Fee visit www.tom-watson.com/scrap_the_fee
If you are or have been a victim of crime in Gwent and you need support, information or guidance, please access the Connect Gwent victims' hub via www.connectgwent.org.uk or by calling 0300 123 21 33.