Cheshire police commissioner David Keane has joined a national campaign to scrap the fee charged to domestic abuse victims seeking legal aid.
“There should be no unnecessary barriers for victims to overcome,” he said this week.
Due to recent legislation changes, domestic abuse victims now have to apply for legal aid.
However to qualify for support they need to provide specific evidence to prove that they have been subjected to such abuse.
One of the accepted forms of evidence is a letter from a GP – a letter that some GPs are charging fees to provide.
Sixteen PCCs including David Keane have added their names to a letter to Health Minister Jeremy Hunt and Justice Secretary Liz Truss.
Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson’s ‘Scrap the Fee’ campaign urges them to banish the need for the GP note all together.
PCC Keane said: “It is essential that victims of domestic abuse are given the confidence to report the abuse they are suffering and are able to access the support and help they need to not only cope and recover, but also get justice.
“There should be no unnecessary barriers for victims to overcome. Therefore, I join my colleagues across the country in making the call to ‘scrap the fee.’”
The concerns raised in the campaign have been echoed by Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd.
He called on the support of his fellow PCCs to demand a fair process for abuse victims.
PCC Lloyd said: “That victims of domestic abuse are even being asked to prove they are victims before they can access legal aid is insulting, insensitive and wholly unhelpful.
“It should not be a privilege for victims of domestic abuse to gain legal aid. There should be no further burden on victims to chase a letter to verify their claim.
“The government needs to scrap this fee by bringing the service under NHS funding or - better still - scrap the need for the letter entirely.”
Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson first raised this issue following a visit to a Wythenshawe Safe Spots, a support centre for victims and survivors of domestic abuse.
He said: “People suffering domestic abuse are already incredibly vulnerable. We should be taking action to help them, not demanding payment for a letter they need to access justice.
“Nearly half of women take no action as a result of not being able to apply for legal aid. That’s appalling. Help for victims of domestic violence should never come at a price.
“I have requested an urgent meeting with ministers to put an end to this practice. The government should scrap this unfair, immoral fee now. It has to stop.”
Not all GPs apply the charges and the amounts being charged vary.
Anyone suffering from domestic abuse can contact Cheshire Constabulary via 101 or in an emergency 999.