A Day in the life of a Process Server – Meet Paul

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A Day in the life of a Process Server – Meet Paul

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My name is Paul, I am a retired Police Officer who served in the Kent Police Force for 27 years, followed by 2 years as a Civilian Crime Investigator. I have been a Process Server with the National Centre for Domestic Violence for 12 years.

Who am I?

As a victim (known legally as the applicant) you might be informed that a Process Server will serve your Family Court documents.

So, what is a Process Server? Who am I? What do I do?

Well, I am not a bailiff. I am a person that gives out (usually known as ‘serves’) non-molestation orders (usually known as injunctions), notice of a hearing, applications for non-molestation orders and statements of abuse.

I am experienced in victim support, I have compassion, integrity and can be trusted with confidential information. I do not and would never disclose any information about a victim or their family.

I carry out my duties professionally and alone, the only person I see as a Process Server is the respondent – a husband, wife, ex-partner, relative or someone else who is intent on harming the victim mentally or physically. Sometimes I liaise with the Police but not very often.

I engage with the victim and their solicitor. The solicitor is the one who gives the advice at all times and any concerns should always be referred to NCDV.

How do I usually operate?

I start my day with a cup of tea and a read of the newspaper. When I’m needed, I’ll get a call from NCDV, usually it’s Nunzia but could also be Michael or Uta.

I’ll receive an instruction to collect the Court case documents, usually from the Canterbury Family Court. The staff at the Family Administration Department are a friendly bunch and very efficient.

The documents are ready for me at the Court, sealed in a large white envelope.  I drive back to my office which happens to be a spare room in my house. I then scan all the documents and send a copy to the solicitor involved and NCDV.

Before I leave to serve the documents, I check that they are all there. I read the information sheet and sometimes the statement to give me some idea of what the respondent looks like, their habits, conduct and importantly to see if they are violent. I check the respondent’s post code, to ascertain information on the location and the type of property. When this is all completed, I contact the victim by phone. This is so they are aware that I am on my way to serve the court documents and to gain any further information on the respondent that may assist with a speedy and safe serving of the documents.

Serving the documents

Upon arriving at the respondent’s address, I check the surrounding area to see if the respondent’s vehicle is nearby (gives me some idea as to whether they are home). On a straight forward service at the door I introduce myself and the reason for my attendance. Once I am confident I have the right person, I hand over the documents and provide a brief explanation as to what they are. This process usually all goes well with no threats of violence or abusive language.

Do not worry if the respondent is in prison. I book a visit to the prison where they are located, after the checks and searches have taken place I am allowed into a secure place to serve the Court documents on the respondent personally. This way the victim has peace of mind that when their abuser is released from prison the Court order will be in force.

How am I operating during lockdown?

These are strange times, they affect us all, including the legal system! We all must remain safe and alert that is why at present we now serve all Court documents by email or phone. This is legal and victims are still covered by the conditions of the Court order. The order does not need to be served personally and is currently only done so as a last resort.

I will contact the victim to gain information such as the respondent’s phone number or email address, if I have not acquired them already. I then call the respondent and inform them briefly about the reason why I am calling. I get them to confirm I have the correct email address. Once this is completed, I send a copy of the Court documents to the respondent and highlight the need for the respondent to contact the Court. At present all Court cases are carried out through a video link with the respondent and victim so no one needs to appear in Court. Once the email is sent, I wait for confirmation that it has been received, if I don’t get it I will call the respondent to confirm receipt.

Completing the serve

Once the serve is made, I type out a statement of service which includes how and when I served the Court documents to the respondent.

I send a copy of this statement to the solicitor and to NCDV, this ensures they are aware of my actions and that the Judge is fully aware that the Court order has been served legally and professionally.

A copy of my statement of service and the Court order is also sent to the police service in the victim’s area. This is so that the police can act on any breaches of the order and that they have the documents to make an arrest if needed.

Once this is all complete, I then call the victim with an update about what has happened and to answer any questions in relation to my role as the process server.

Final word from me…

Always phone the police if you are in fear of the respondent or anyone acting on their behalf breaking any condition of the Court order. Also, make notes of these events so you have a record of what is happening and when. Finally, contact your solicitor as soon as possible to update them on the situation.

Remember you are not alone, support is here for you, you have made a big step forward to a peaceful, safe and enjoyable life just by reading this.

Paul, Process Server

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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.”