Aims, Policy & Practice

Aims, Policy & Practice

Our mission is to help people identify the early signs of domestic abuse, make decisions for a better life and to make domestic abuse socially unacceptable.

Before the Centre was operational, the Police and victims faced two problems when using local firms of solicitors to obtain non-molestation orders.

Generally, solicitors were only willing to accept clients that were either eligible for public funding or clients who could afford to pay privately, thus leaving all those people ‘not eligible’ with no access to funds, unprotected.

The other main issue was that solicitors were taking between two days and two weeks to get the client into court and obtain the order.

We were convinced that victims of domestic violence and abuse could be daunted by the vast amount of various legal agencies offering to assist. We saw the need for a one-stop-shop where the concerns of those in an abusive situation could be addressed in their language and on their terms. Furthermore this streamlined service, could and should be free and accessible to everybody.

A Free, Fast Support Service

Our service is targeted at the rapid relief of domestic violence and abuse. The majority of cases referred to us will result in speedy action in the civil courts, but, we are also able to advise on those services providing alternative refuge accommodation and on legal protection for children caught up in abusive or failing relationships.

The service works as follows:

  • There are two central numbers both of which are monitored 24-hours a day
  • Full details are obtained with a high priority being given to respect for the wishes of the survivor.
  • Centre staff then advice as to the range of remedies available (most of which will be part of one or more of the Family Law Act 1996). Again, we view reassurance as an important aspect of our approach. Many survivors will not have experience of the civil courts and many fear them. The availability of without-notice orders is explained and can alleviate understandable concerns of reprisals by the perpetrator.
  • Once a client has indicated their preference for a particular remedy, the necessary witness statement is
    prepared and eligibility for legal aid assessed
  • Clients qualifying for public funding are thereafter referred to a solicitor on the Centre’s Panel of solicitors. Our relationship with Panel solicitors is such that clients will rarely need to make an additional journey to the solicitor, with most meeting theirs for the first time at court on the day of the hearing.

Protection irrespective of financial circumstances

Those whose income or capital takes them above the threshold for public funding can be provided with a Mckenzie Friend to assist in drafting the relevant paperwork and making the application in Court.

As to timing, the Centre aims to get cases to Court on the first working day after initial contact. In cases of extreme urgency (involving risk of child abduction for instance) the Centre is conversant with the procedure for obtaining and enforcing orders out of usual court hours. In any event, clients will have been familiarised with the whole court experience as part of the initial advice that NCDV provides. The Centre can also offer practical assistance with getting to court if such is required. Centre staff have access to a qualified lawyer 24 hours a day, 365 days a year should they encounter circumstances beyond their own experience and expertise.

To provide this service NCDV continually train law students from universities and training centres throughout the country. In addition we run specialist training courses for numerous Police forces and government agencies throughout the county.

dorset-police

I have been really impressed by the service provided by the NCDV to High Risk DA Victims that I have supported. In most cases my clients receive their initial call within a day of my referring them to you and in several cases an application for an emergency Non-Molestation Order has been activated very soon after that provided them with much needed legal protection at a time when they are very vulnerable or scared..

Our Aim: Protection for All, Now

Thus far, the Centre’s success has been beyond all expectation. Clients have achieved the protection and security they desire and have been able to start down the long road of recovery from abuse without having been further traumatised by the procedures necessary to obtain protection.

Nonetheless, there is no room for complacency when dealing with those who have been downtrodden or violated, and we encourage clients to share with us their views as to how the service may be further enhanced.

Thus we, together with our clients and the agencies with whom we work are on a voyage towards a safer, happier future.

NCDV will evolve with the challenges we meet but offers no compromise in our key aim: to be the vehicle by which violence and abuse are banished from the lives of our clients, and a companion for them on their journey to recovery and reassurance.

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.”