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    NCDV has non-molestation order archive system ASSIST

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    NCDV has non-molestation order archive system ASSIST

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    Without the NCDV ASSIST database thousands of domestic violence victims could be at further risk of abuse because police are unaware of non-molestation orders (NMOs) against their attackers.

    According to a report by Crest Advisory consultancy and computer company CGI, which created the police database the onus is on survivors having to register their order, made by a civil court on paper, at a police station, something which many victims find intimidating.

    “Not only is the lack of a digital record frustrating for victims, it potentially puts them at unnecessary risk of harm,” they wrote. “In most cases, a local police force will have no knowledge of the NMOs that have been issued across their police force area.”

    As NMO details are not on a database nor shared with other forces, a survivor who moves, something common among victims, would not be flagged as vulnerable in their new area, The Independent newspaper reported.

    A National Centre for Domestic Violence phone app is used by some police forces, but it holds a fraction of the records and was used last year to download just 2,000 orders, the newspaper reported. More than 25,000 NMOs were made last year.

    According to digital world journal Diginomica, CGI is proposing the police national database be extended to automatically accept, manage and store details of all NMOs issued.

    Mark Groves CEO of The National Centre for Domestic Violence said “ In 2010 we recognised this was a major problem for victims, we spoke to may police forces but nothing was done so we decided to do it ourselves. In 2011 we launched the ASSIST web site that now stores thousands of Non Molestation orders and is available only for the police to download a copy. We are currently uploading around 1000 orders to the system every month”

    Although the ASSIST database does not hold copies of all the orders granted it is the only national resource that stores any. Mr Groves went on to say “ CGI approached us 18 months ago recognising that we had developed the only national database and together we have formed a ‘Joining the Dots’ campaign to finally complete the integration of ASSIST and the PND. Unfortunately this integration will take resource and money so I am not sure how long it will take.”

    The National Centre for Domestic Violence do not charge to upload orders to the ASSIST system and they do not charge the police for access. Mr Groves said “ Any solicitor, court or individual is welcome to send us the order for upload and quite frankly why wouldn’t you”

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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.”