Clinical Legal Education as an effective tool for improving the accessibility of protective injunctions for victims of domestic abuse: a case study example of the models of support available at Northumbria University
Protective injunctions are at the forefront of the family justice system’s response to protecting victims of domestic abuse. The accessibility of orders, however, has been compromised by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 which has reduced the availability of public funding for victims of domestic abuse and led to an increase in victims representing themselves in such proceedings. Research indicates that without legal support, a victim’s prospects of securing protection can be adversely affected, demonstrating a need for pro bono assistance for those who cannot afford to pay privately for legal services. Whilst the provision of pro bono support in areas of unmet need is a principal aim of clinical legal education, research shows that few clinical programs in England and Wales offer specialist services for victims of domestic abuse. This paper therefore considers the role that clinical legal education can play in improving the accessibility of protective injunctions. Part one sets out a review of recent reforms within the family justice system and analyses how they have created an increased demand for pro bono legal support for victims of domestic abuse. Part two examines the clinical landscape and the potential benefits to students of providing support to victims. By drawing on the case study of the Student Law Office at Northumbria University, part three sets out the various models of clinical legal education that may be utilised to support victims of domestic abuse. The benefits and limitations of each option for students and victims will also be considered. The paper is a helpful point of reference for clinicians and family law practitioners working in partnership with law school clinics who are considering offering support in this area.