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Mick’s Story

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Mick’s Story

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Mick is one of our trainers, his experience relates directly to his NCDV colleague.

Paula is a fellow trainer and in charge of compiling these accounts for sharing. Paula and Mick have also been friends for many years

“Mine is easy to recall. It was the time when I first saw a video featuring the then DCI of the Police Public Protection Unit.  This was at a time whilst I was working in Force Training, prior to my retirement. I was reviewing some material for an upcoming vulnerability training day.

In the video, the DCI spoke to three women about their personal experiences of Domestic Violence. The reason why this impacted so much upon me was, that one of the women was you Paula.

At this point, I hadn’t seen you for a few years, but I recognised you straight away. I remember you stating in the video, that you had now retired from the service. Needless to say, I listened intently to what then followed.

When I heard what you had to say about your experiences, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. You recalled instances of violence towards you by your ex-husband, that took place at a time when I was working with you every day, at a Police Station. You’ll remember we were beat officers there, at that time. We worked together a lot, so I saw a lot of you.

You’ll remember also, that some years later, we went on to work together at another Police Station on the Case Building Team. Again, I continued to see you on a daily basis.

We always got on well. We were close and we were always great friends. That makes what follows, all the worse.

I had no idea at all, of what you had gone through during this time of your life. I hated the fact that I never noticed any of it. Not one thing. I should have done. After all, I was a police officer. It was my job to know and yet, I didn’t. When I want to be kind to myself, I tell myself that you must have been very good at hiding it. However, I know this isn’t true. This caused me to reflect deeply on my own failings. I should have been there for you. I wasn’t. To this day, I carry the guilt of this around with me.

Prior to my own retirement from the police, I remember speaking with you on the phone. I can’t quite remember whether I called you or you called me. It doesn’t matter now. I do remember raising this matter with you at that time and apologising. You were gracious enough to say all the right things to make me feel better about myself – thank you! I do also remember the small matter of a (then) vacant training position with NCDV arising in the discussion. I distinctly remember telling you that I wasn’t interested; that I was retiring and that I wasn’t looking for work. However, in your own inimitable style, you persuaded me to speak with ‘some lovely people in Guildford’. As a favour to an old friend, I went along with it. I’m glad I did. The rest, as they say, is history.

Nothing will ever remove the sense of self-guilt that I know I will always feel about your situation. That will live within me, forever. However, I hope that if there is a greater power looking down on us from above, they take note of what I do today and understand that this is my small way of attempting to make amends and find inner peace.

Thank you, my friend.”

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In this series we are using the brave stories of domestic abuse survivors to bring hope to others currently facing abuse. Their stories are sadly not unique, the victims share them willingly to help others get the support they did.
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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.”