Merseyside's Police Commissioner is offering her support to a campaign urging GP’s to “scrap the fee” for a domestic abuse doctor’s note.
Domestic abuse victims applying for legal aid to have their case heard in court must first prove that they are victims of such abuse. One of the accepted forms of evidence is a letter from a GP, a letter that some GPs charge £75 to provide.
Now police and crime commissioners and local politicians have joined forces with Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson to “Scrap The Fee”.
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy has added her support to the campaign. She said: “Victims of domestic abuse are vulnerable and need our support. They should be given every assistance to get their case to court, not be forced to pay an unnecessary and heartless fee to receive a GP’s letter which can get the process started.
“Access to legal support should not be dependent on your means. It should be available to everyone, particularly those who may be at their lowest ebb. The Government can put a stop to this by acting now.”
Tom Watson launched the Scrap The Fee campaign, which is backed by Labour MPs and peers.
Tom Watson MP said: “I learned about the GP fee when I visited a centre for victims of domestic abuse in Wythenshawe. I couldn't believe it. 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. The government should scrap this unfair, immoral fee now. It has to stop.”
Legal aid is a lifeline for women fleeing domestic abuse. It helps them to protect themselves, their children and secure their financial situation. But because of government changes to legal aid rules, individuals now need to provide a prescribed piece of evidence to prove they have been subjected to abuse.
GPs are able to charge fees to provide this proof because the service sits outside the NHS contract with doctors’ surgeries. Campaigners are urging the Government to bring the service back under NHS control and calling on GPs to abolish the fee within their practices.
Find out more about the campaign and add your support at http://www.tom-watson.com/scrap_the_fee