Civil legal aid is only available for family matters where an individual can prove they are a victim of domestic violence. One of the routes to provide evidence is via the individual’s doctor.
If asked to provide evidence
Your patient will ask you to complete a request for evidence template letter to confirm you are satisfied that the injuries or condition (which could include any psychological condition), presented with in the last 24 months, are consistent with domestic violence.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) have made it clear that the evidence is only required for a decision on whether or not to grant legal aid. It is not designed to prove domestic violence in the context of a criminal or civil court case. It is also recognised that the great majority of physical injuries and many non-physical conditions could be caused by domestic violence.
Where a patient has been examined by a doctor in the last 24 months, and there is clear information in the notes that the patient at the time informed the doctor they were suffering domestic violence, (whether physical or psychological), doctors would be able to sign the template letter as it is.
Where a patient has been examined in the last 24 months, but there is no clear information in the notes that the patient at the time informed the doctor they were suffering domestic violence, but are doing so now, doctors are advised to state the facts as they understand them and avoid interpretation.
In this situation we would advise members to state that the patient did not disclose at the time of the origin of the injuries but is doing so now.
Do I charge a fee?
We have long opposed the decision to include medical evidence in this process, as we feel such requests can compromise the doctor's relationship with their patient.
We believe that legal aid agencies should take the word of victims without needing to consult with a medical professional, who themselves may not be best placed to confirm whether domestic abuse has taken place.
This work however does not fall within a doctors NHS contract, therefore a fee can be charged. If a fee is charged, this must be agreed in advance of undertaking the work with the patient.
However, we recommend that patients are not charged for this. You may also wish to highlight the other routes for evidence as a possible alternative.