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    2009 Charity Black Tie Ball

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    2009 Charity Black Tie Ball

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    On the 9th December 2009 the NCDV Black Tie Ball was held at the Hilton Hotel in Cobham. The night was attended by profiles such as John Humphrys from Mastermind, Charlie Brooks from EastEnders, Lady Coulsen, Chief Constables, law firms such as Lovells along with staff and volunteers.

    The Centre held the Ball in order to try and maintain its working relationships with law firms, police and volunteers. It was also a chance for the charity to raise money to enhance the Center’s level of service. To raise funds a silent auction was held by Fun Raising during dinner. There was also planned a raffle along with other activities aiming to raise funds.

    Another reason for the Ball was to introduce some new initiatives that are set to benefit Domestic Violence Survivors. One initiative is to have the respondent book the return hearing. At present 50% of respondents do not appear in court for the return hearing meaning a waste of time for the courts and unnecessary stress for the applicant.

    The poster which can be seen in the background of the picture is the second initiative introduced. The NCDV will be placing focus on the fact that men also experience Domestic Violence and hopefully with this campaign we will be able to encourage more men to seek help.

    There were several guest speakers who spoke highly of the work the Centre does. On the left is Steve Mould from the CPS and on the right is Lady Coulson who is our main contact at City Law School. These two, along with many others have helped the Centre throughout the years and the Centre is forever grateful.

    One of the main events during the night was the silent auction which was held by Fun Raising. Several items were provided and with the help of Rodger Dakins, from Fun Raising, the Centre was able to raise some funds. Among the guests were Chalie Brooks from EastEnders, who is a firm believer in stopping Domestic Violence and the work we do at the Centre.

    Another famous face was John Humpfrys who provided the evenings after dinner entertainment with funny and enlightening anecdotes from his life as a journalist and now the host of BBC’s Mastermind. The picture on the right shows the two with NCDV’s CEO Steve Connor.

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    By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

    “Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

    Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

    The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

    The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

    I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

    In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

    NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

    NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

    Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

    Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”