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The SWRC’s expansion set to increase legal support for survivors of gender-based violence

We had the pleasure to receive Ash Denham, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, yesterday at the offices of JustRight Scotland, the legal provider for the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre (“the Centre”), and our new helpline premises.

The visit follows the recent expansion of the Centre thanks to the support of the Scottish Government through the Justice Fund and the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

This expansion will increase our capacity to provide legal and advocacy support to women affected by gender-based violence, including sexual crimes, domestic abuse, stalking, forced marriage and so-called “honour” crimes.

The extension of our services is supported by the appointment of new members of staff (including legal, advocacy, administrative and communications support) which will soon take the Centre to 10 staff members.

This will allow us to expand the services we offer throughout Scotland to include more legal surgeries (currently available in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Edinburgh and Stirling, and a further two surgeries will begin in Dundee and Inverness later this year).

This expansion, along with the creation of a specialist service for women survivors of sexual harassment funded by Rosa’s Justice and Equality Fund, will allow us to increase our helpline hours to operate on a daily basis.

The expansion will increase our ability to provide legal representation and advocacy support (where cases meet the Centre’s criteria) and deliver training to improve responses to women’s experiences of gender-based violence.

Along with the services already on offer — including a Scotland-wide helpline available 3 times per week, weekly legal surgeries, specialist legal representation and advocacy support — the above developments are set to increase the Centre’s capacity to support women who seek access to justice after experiencing violence or abuse.

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said:

“I commend the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre for their work to tackle gender-based violence – a priority that is shared by the Scottish Government.

“Each of the partner organisations involved in the Centre play a vital role in supporting victims, and it was great to meet with staff to hear about their efforts to help survivors come to terms with the aftermath of horrendous crimes.

“I am delighted that, through committed Scottish Government support, the service will soon be able to expand to include more legal advice surgeries, meaning that more women will benefit from this crucial support.”

Sarah Crawford, JustRight Scotland, Scottish Women’s Rights Centre Lead Solicitor said:

“The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre is an innovative and holistic service which seeks to ensure women who have experienced gender-based violence are aware of, and able to exercise, their rights. Until the root causes of gender-based violence are addressed, access to a centre for women’s rights is essential in providing protection and some means of redress. From the very start, the demand for our service has demonstrated the need for expansion.”

Sandy Brindley, Chief Executive of Rape Crisis Scotland said:

“Women who have experienced gender based violence are often in desperate need of specialised legal advice and we are delighted to be able to expand this service to enable us to reach more women who need it.”

Kate Laverty, Director and Supervisor at the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic said:

“The University of Strathclyde Law Clinic is very excited about the expansion of the Scottish Women's Rights Centre. Through their involvement with the Centre, our volunteer law students have gained invaluable experience and developed specialised legal skills and knowledge about the experiences of women who have been affected by gender-based violence and are trying to navigate the legal system. Exposure to these issues at this stage in their legal careers will mean they have a much improved awareness of the difficulties faced by women which will inform their practice in future years.”

About the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre

The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre was launched in 2015 and it is a collaboration between Rape Crisis Scotland, JustRight Scotland and the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic. The Centre provides free legal information, advice, representation and advocacy support to women in Scotland who have experienced or are experiencing gender-based violence, and undertakes policy work, training and awareness raising with the aim of improving access to justice.

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