I was recently sent the details of a referral for a Non Molestation Order by our First Steps Team, our First Steps Team make the initial contact with applicants who are referred / self-refer to us for an emergency injunction, it contained the following comments:-
“A lady self-referred to NCDV. The incident was reported to West Midlands Police and was NFA’d (no further action), the Police Officer advised her to get a solicitor. She said it had been incredibly stressful finding the right solicitor and was taking a lot of time, she was not finding her search successful. Coventry Social Services gave her our number, she called NCDV and self-referred that day at 3.15pm. By 10 the next day I was able to assess her case, answer any questions she had and start the ball rolling for her to obtain a non mol. Before we finished our call on the system, I could see that she was being allocated a solicitor.”
Although delighted that we were able to assist the applicant obtain the order she needed to protect her and her children, I was saddened to see the police officer advising her to get a solicitor.
Like many of our trainers I am a retired police officer. The culture from the 1980’s and 1990’s when the police attended a domestic abuse incident, was often to say, ‘get a solicitor’. I thought that the police had now moved on from that?
I fully appreciate that there is not always the evidence for the police to proceed with a criminal case. However, I remain mindful of how difficult it is for many victims, particularly at the point of crisis in the height of a domestic abuse incident or immediately after to pick up the phone and dial 999 for the police. Although arguably the right course of action is to contact the police, this phone call for many may result in life changing consequences. Not only in hopefully bringing the perpetrator to justice and ending the violence, but for some the call will signal the break-up of families, the end of a relationship , the start of divorce proceedings, all of which are important steps in safeguarding the victim.
To be told, ‘get a solicitor’ by the police can send a negative message to the victim that the police are not interested, and it could also deter some from calling the police again. As with the above example finding a solicitor can be a daunting and for some an expensive experience. Also, the delay in finding a solicitor can sometimes mean that too much time has passed since the incident to enable a court application to be made.
Our very existence back in 2002 when NCDV started as the London Centre for Domestic Violence came about when a victim had trouble in finding a solicitor following a domestic abuse incident.
Surely referring or signposting to organisations such as NCDV has to be a better option than leaving a victim to sort it out on their own?
Training Development Manager