Domestic abuse ignorance keeping women oppressed warns legal expert

One of Leicestershire’s leading experts in family law has warned a lack of awareness about domestic abuse is keeping some women in intolerable relationships

Kathryn Hicklin, a partner at QualitySolicitors Mander Cruickshank, said a lack of knowledge surrounding the topic, coupled with recent family law changes has added to the plight of abused women in the county.

“It is a worrying situation,” said Ms Hicklin, whose firm has branches in Coalville and Hinckley.

“Many people believe that domestic abuse is just about physical or sexual assaults, but it’s much more complicated than that,” she added.

“It can be psychological where there is control of an individual and a pattern of behaviour making them feel useless. Equally it could be financial control or intimidation without resorting to actual physical harm,” she added. “There are other definitions too, which are available on the government website.”

“This message has to be put across in the media and it is the responsibility of us in the legal profession to do this so people do not needlessly suffer,” she said. “Speak to the police, a solicitor or a charity specialising in this if you are being abused in this way, before it escalates,” she said.

Ms Hicklin’s comments come shortly after changes in public funded legal aid, which she said has added to the plight of some in the county.

Under the changes many people involved in marriage or relationship breakdowns will no longer be able to obtain legal aid.

Previously, where there was a disparity in wealth between spouses involved in a divorce, state-funded legal advice could provide equality. However since April the legal aid bill has limited public funds for legal advice at the end of a relationship to only those cases which involve domestic abuse or child protection matters.

“It is a change which negatively financially affects many, yet has not made big news in the mainstream media,” she said.

She added that QualitySolicitors Mander Cruickshank has three solicitors on the Law Society Children Panel – a body overseeing best practice in child care law, thereby positioning themselves as one of the county’s leaders in this area of law

“It is a time of great change in this delicate area of law and many may be feeling helpless, but whatever issues the people of the community have, we are well placed to assist them as to their options,” she added.

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