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Domestic abuse victims denied legal aid for protection orders - Labour

Hundreds of domestic abuse victims could be missing out on getting protection orders because they're unable to get legal aid, Labour says.

Domestic violence (File)

In the last two years some 351 people who applied for legal aid for the purposes of getting a protection order, had their applications turned down, says Labour's Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern.

"A protection order is one of the most basic tools we have available through our legal system to protect victims of violence," she says.

"The legal aid threshold is a difficult one. Equity in a home - and it may be in the home shared with the perpetrator of violence, could deem someone ineligible for assistance.

"If an applicant is not eligible for legal aid, they must cover the cost of accessing a lawyer themselves. Any suggestion that a protection order may not be accessible because legal aid has been denied is alarming."

Family lawyers have been providing their services at cut rates to people applying for protection orders, while others are using graduates to keep the cost of processing as low as possible, Ms Ardern says.

"Last year 3,307 people were granted a protection order. How many more would there be if getting one was easier?"

"New Zealanders frequently express distress over our high rate of domestic and family violence. The Minister has said that family and domestic violence is a priority and we welcome the opportunity to work with her to address issues such as this.

"However a protection order cannot protect if victims can't access them in the first place."