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'An Angel on My Shoulder' - protecting women in the legal system

Words by Abi Scaife

It’s as clear and straightforward as the name on the tin - Affordable Justice.

Legal representation isn’t cheap, it’s a fact of life. Of course, the job that these incredibly skilled and dedicated lawyers perform isn’t easy, but still, we need to ask ourselves - should justice really be hidden behind a paywall?

That’s why we need the team behind Affordable Justice, a legal charity based in Hull. They make no profit and offer legal services to women at a third of the price.

This family law firm is run by women, for women, and was set up in response to the reduction in legal aid that came in 2013

“We set up in 2016 in response to a piece of legislation called LASPO, which came into force in 2013,” explains Lisa Hilder, one of the directors and trustees at Affordable Justice. LASPO involved cutting a huge amount of legal aid, preventing some of the most vulnerable people from accessing help. “In particular, the impact that it had on women and children fleeing domestic violence and abuse. So we wanted to be able to provide those legal services advice and representation for women in that situation in a way that was affordable. If they could no longer access legal aid to help them do that.”

Under the charities provision in the Equality Act 2010, Affordable Justice works exclusively with women. This isn’t because men or people of other genders don’t also have a need for affordable legal services, but because women really do face a huge disadvantage when it comes to finding legal representation.

Women represent 84% of victims in abuse cases - and while many people, of all genders, can experience abuse and may fear reporting their abuse, the statistics do show that women are considerably more likely to experience abuse than men. 

Additionally, on top of the abuse, women are much more likely to be the primary carer for any children they may have, making it more difficult for them to find the opportunity to meet with legal representation. For that reason, having a legal space that is tailored to women, especially those who are feeling abuse, is incredibly important.

“There are lots of technical terms for the different kinds of orders and proceedings that we support with but essentially, it's about making sure that parental responsibilities in their broadest sense [are] undertaken by the right parents,” explains Lisa. “Particularly where we've got women fleeing abuse, we get involved with arrangements for contact for who is allowed to have contact with the child or children, and whether or not they're allowed to live with one of the parents or the other parent. Obviously, that's very delicate when it comes to dealing with abusers and victims.”

For those women who are coming into their headquarters in Hull, Affordable Justice has an Ofsted-registered nursery where they can leave their children, enabling them to have adult conversations with their legal representatives. Plus, Affordable Justice will cover the cost of an interpreter for women whose first language isn’t English.

The main benefit of having Affordable Justice on the side of women is that they don’t just look at the legal side of things - they really do put people before profit, and work to make sure that the women they represent are protected from beginning to end.

“We don't only give legal advice or representation,” explains Lisa. “We do it in a way that supports [and] recognises the trauma that women and kids have suffered, and is understanding of how they're feeling and the impact the abuse has had on them.”

“Our practice is geared towards supporting women safely through that family court process. And making sure that not only do they get the nuts and bolts of the outcomes that they want, but they're not re-traumatised by the whole family court process.”

To learn more about Affordable Justice and how they help to support women and children through the difficult, and often terrifying, process of testifying against domestic abuse, you can read their evaluation report ‘An Angel on my Shoulder’.

To find out more about Affordable Justice and how you can help them support victims of domestic violence, visit the Affordable Justice website.

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

Solace Women’s Aid. Solace Women's Aid exists to end the harm done through violence against women and girls. Learn more here.

Refuge. This charity runs life-saving services including our 24/7 Helpline and 44 refuges, for women and their children affected by domestic abuse. Support them here.

Hestia Life Beyond Crisis. Hestia provides domestic abuse support services in London and the southeast, including domestic abuse refuges and community-based support. Find out more.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Gender Equality.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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