This important case was heard by Pepperall J in the Administrative Court.  The case was brought by the Public Law Project in conjunction with the Law Society Access to Justice Committee  The Court held that victims of domestic abuse who jointly hold property with their abuser must not automatically be denied legal aid. In reality such capital is trapped, meaning that the LAA may exercise its discretion, pursuant to 31(b) Civil Legal Aid Regulations 2013, to grant legal aid in such cases.

Full judgment click here.

Following the breakdown of the relationship, GR continued to occupy and possess a joint interest in the three-bed family home in London worth £650,000 and subject to a mortgage of £302,000. GR was unable to meet mortgage payments having no assets at her immef=diate disposal.  GR remained the children’s primary carer and the house, which was is in walking distance of their school, met their housing needs.  GR applied  for civil legal aid to fund private family-law proceedings in respect of the custody of the couple’s two children and a dispute as to their jointly owned property.

The Legal Aid Agency refused GR’s application as it assessed her disposable capital at £65,278, comprising of her interest in the home and the balance of her account. The LAA rejected an appeal which contended that the property should have been valued at nil because GR could neither borrow against the asset nor sell it. GR argued that the LAA Director had failed to exercise her discretion to disregard the value of the property.