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    NCDV launches ASSIST Process Serving

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    NCDV launches ASSIST Process Serving

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    Serving the order is one of the most important processes in obtaining protection from a non-molestation order. If the order is not served or not served correctly then it affords the victim no protection whatsoever and in some cases could put them in more danger. Orders not served correctly if breached will not be pursued by the CPS, leaving the victim vulnerable once again.

    Victims of domestic violence and abuse are put through a very stressful period to obtain their injunction and for an order not to be served correctly is a complete waste of their time, resources and emotional turmoil. Not to mention the wasted costs to the public purse.

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    At the end of July NCDV was presented with a problem, the UKs largest process serving company that provided service to 90% of NCDV’s cases pulled the plug on legal aid work. This was set to devastate the very efficient service they had been providing for over 5 years.

    NCDV analysed the service they provided, drafted a plan that would not only enhance the service to the victim but would provide solicitors with a superior service level and a large saving to the LAA and launched NCDV ASSIST Process Serving.

    ASSIST Process Serving  allows NCDV to tie in great process serving with its award winning ASSIST injunction web portal by bringing all the administration under one internal department.

    Mark Groves, Head of Operations said “ This is actually a great opportunity to re-evaluate the process serving sector, we will create a team that will provide the best service to the victim and solicitors and we will dramatically reduce the costs to the LAA”

    Mr Groves further said “ We have over 150 solicitor firms on our panel and hundreds of process servers, the common complaint especially more recently is the lack of guidance from the LAA, we are now in a position to take up some of these issues directly with them to ensure that victims are protected efficiently and cost effectively”.

    The Head of Contracts at the Legal Aid Agency, John Sirodcar has been in conversation with Mr Groves recently, Mr Groves said “ It’s terribly frustrating dealing with the LAA to get consistent guidance from them even for relatively simple issues but hopefully working closer with John Sirodcar will facilitate timely guidance, communication is a good thing”.

    NCDV runs ASSIST Process Serving as a cost neutral part of its organisation, Mr Groves standing on the left below receiving a Law Society Excellence award went on to say “ I have taken on this project to take control of the process, process serving is a critical part of the injunction procedure and can’t be left to unprofessional practices or inefficient individuals”.

     

    Law Societe award picture

    For information on any aspect of NCDV ASSIST Process Serving contact mark.groves@ncdv.org.uk

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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.”