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Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner backs “scrap the fee” campaign

9th December 2016

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird QC is offering her support to a domestic abuse 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”.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Vera Baird, has offered her full support to the campaign.

Commissioner Baird said: “I’m completely committed to ensuring victims of domestic abuse have the support they need and find it appalling they must pay to prove they have been a victim to be eligible for legal aid.

“Many victims flee with very little and often only the clothes they are wearing and very few personal items, many have limited access to funds. Without legal aid some victims simply cannot afford court proceedings against their perpetrator.”

Manchester City Council recently passed a Notice of Motion reinforcing its commitment to bring about a ‘Manchester GPs pledge’ not to charge for legal aid evidence letters in cases of domestic abuse.

Commissioner Baird added: “This fee must be abolished and I am committed to supporting this campaign and will be writing to our local authorities in Northumbria to ask them to take the same approach as Manchester City Council.”

Tom Watson launched the Scrap The Fee campaign, which is backed by Labour MPs and peers.

Tom Watson MP said: “I want to thank Tony Lloyd and Manchester City Council for backing my scrap the fee campaign – 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