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To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the contribution by the hon. Member for North West Cambridgeshire of 18 March 2014, Official Report, column 625, what progress has been made by his Department's investigation into reasons for increases in the number of non-molestation orders issued by the English courts.
Non-molestation orders are an important form of protection for those suffering or at risk of domestic violence. Legal aid funds applications, regardless of the applicant’s means. We accept current orders, or those made in the previous 24 months as the evidence required to access legal aid in private family law matters.
The MoJ keeps the impacts of legal aid reforms under review. While it is true that the number of non-molestation orders applied for through the courts has increased since implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, published data does not support the position that this is due to such orders being a form of acceptable evidence of domestic violence required to access legal aid funding in private family law child or finance arrangement matters. We are confident that the court procedures for making non-molestation orders are sufficiently robust.
The Ministry of Justice has commissioned an extensive research programme to investigate individual behavioural responses following the legal aid reforms. This will provide robust findings on the prevalence of social and civil justice problems and the ways in which people resolve these problems both within and outside of the justice system. Findings from this programme are expected in Autumn 2015.