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Legal Aid Bill resumes House of Lords committee stage after Christmas recess

Joint Committee on Human Rights publishes its legislative scrutiny report on the Bill

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill reached the committee stage in the House of Lords shortly before Christmas. The next session will take place on Tuesday, 10 January 2012, with seven further sessions scheduled. 

Meanwhile, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has published its legislative scrutiny Report on the Bill.

The committee regrets the fact that the Government has not provided Parliament with a full human rights memorandum which includes a detailed analysis of the Bill's compatibility with the UK's obligations under relevant international human rights treaties. Providing such information to Parliament, the Committee says, strengthens the principle of subsidiarity: laws passed after detailed parliamentary scrutiny of their human rights compatability are more likely to withstand subsequent judicial scrutiny.

In respect of the effect of the proposed legislation on family law applications, the committee welcomes the Government's intention to protect the right of access to legal aid for victims of domestic violence. However, the committee expresses concern that the definitions used will not lead to practically effective access. It therefore calls on the Government to amend the Bill to use the ACPO definition of domestic violence, broaden the forms of evidence which are capable of establishing domestic violence has taken place, and remove the 12 month time limit on eligibility. However, the committee welcomes the Government's previous amendment of the Bill to extend eligibility for legal aid to cases of domestic violence where the victim is of insecure immigration status.