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Record Numbers of Applicants helped pro bono in 2019

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Record Numbers of Applicants helped pro bono in 2019

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NCDV Announces it has helped Record Numbers of Applicants pro bono in 2019

Numbers follow Surge in National Awareness of Domestic Violence

NCDV, the Guildford-based National Centre for Domestic Violence, has today announced that it has helped over 3000 victims, pro bono, in England during 2019 – a record number – to make applications to Courts for Non-Molestation Orders.

Mark Groves, chief executive, commenting on the figures said:

“We make no charge whatsoever to the victims who call us. We’re here to help those who cannot afford a solicitor get legal aid funding urgently so that they can apply for and get proper legal protection in place.

“If some victims don’t qualify for legal aid but still cannot afford a solicitor that is when we can step in and help them pro bono – typically using our experience to help them appear as a Litigant in Person.

“With the hard work and dedication of a great team we have managed to increase the number of victims we helped pro bono from 2000 in 2018 to over 3000 in 2019.

“The increase in our pro bono work reflects rising public awareness of domestic violence and abuse – partly due to campaigns such as NCDV’s own World Cup initiative in July 2018 and recent coverage of national figures such as ex PM Teresa May and the Duchess of Cornwall.

“Every month we receive about 7000 calls from people who are already suffering from, or at severe risk of, domestic violence and abuse, including controlling behaviour.

“Most of these callers, though by no means at all, are women who have been referred to us by the police.  Our service in helping victims secure Non Molestation Orders is one of the most effective counters to domestic violence because if abusers breach a NMO it is a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in prison.

“Many callers are however in financial as well as domestic distress.

“While we are able to help as many as 1000 a month secure legal aid funding to instruct a law firm there are many others who will fail to qualify for full funding, due to the very strict criteria governing the allocation of legal aid.  One victim was asked to make a personal contribution of £45,000! The net result is that many victims cannot afford to pay for their own legal protection.

“All those facing financial hardship for whom we cannot secure legal aid we try to help in some way or another.  Our pro bono work is a small, but significant step towards the long term goal of making domestic violence socially unacceptable.”

 

Background

 

NCDV is a 45 strong team based in Guildford, Surrey which helps victims of domestic violence and abuse get fast, free advice on how to obtain effective legal protection from their abusers.

The organisation helps callers from all over England irrespective of their financial circumstances and aims to get effective legal protection in place for them in as little as 24 hours.

NCDV, whose purpose is to make domestic violence socially unacceptable in under 30 years, was originally founded in 2002 as the London Centre for Domestic Violence by ex-barrister and erstwhile policeman, Dr Steve Connor OBE.  It is now headed by chief executive, Mark Groves, an expert in management and technology systems who joined Connor’s team in 2008.

NCDV has trained over 8000 police officers all over England on how to counter domestic violence and abuse. It has launched pioneering database systems, such as its award winning ASSIST online portal to help local police have access to national Court Orders providing them with enforcement evidence and an award winning app to make timely referrals of victims.

NCDV’s top-rated work has been recognised in thousands of accolades from individual police officers, charities and victims themselves and by many awards including the Law Society’s coveted Excellence in Client Service Award in 2015, the only time such an award has not been won by a law firm.

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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.”