Page last updated at 15:57 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 16:57 UK

Violence victims' free legal help

Domestic violence. Posed by models
Only 2% of domestic abuse is reported

More than 70 victims of domestic violence have been helped in 10 months by a Plymouth project offering free legal advice.

The Domestic Abuse Advocacy Project has been helping victims in situations were they do not qualify for legal aid for court proceedings.

Its work has included helping clients get injunctions against abusers.

The project said its work had helped people avoid paying out thousands of pounds for their own safety.

'Safe and secure'

The project was started by Plymouth City Council lawyer Alexandra Boardman who drew on experience of advising abuse victims when she was a family lawyer.

One victim helped by the service was attacked by her fiance just days after getting engaged earlier this year.

Claire said that she never would have been able to afford the peace of mind the project's assistance had given her.

The injunction she obtained against her attacker would have cost her up to £6,000, the project said.

Claire said: "I would never have been able to pay.

"I'm a single mum and I work, but I certainly haven't got lots of money my back pocket.

"I was able to be made safe and secure with an injunction for absolutely nothing."

Ms Boardman said: "The thought of going to the courts themselves to issue an application against the perpetrator is just incredibly daunting.

"From that point of view, to have someone who is an advocate for them to help guide them through the system and make it as easy and as smooth as possible is invaluable."

The project has funding until next March. It is looking for more money to be able to continue after that.

The city council said only 2% of domestic abuse was reported.

It said 98% of abuse occurred against women, and they endured an average of 35 violent assaults before reporting them to police.

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