Police code of ethics and previous request concerning police promotion of the NCDV
Dear College of Policing Limited,
Since our previous request concerning this matter.
Please provide a copy of any correspondence and information concerning any action the College of Policing will be taking having been informed of the unethical present situation where police forces and the college of policing are promoting an individiual business; especially in circumstances where victims of domestic abuse are being exposed to risk as described.
The link to the previous request can be found at:
Independent Police Support Group
This is to acknowledge your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 has been received. Your acknowledgement letter is attached.
Further to your email dated 28 June 2015 in relation the request made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, please find attached your response letter.
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Dear College FOI,
Appealing to the ICO is time consuming when we are simply asking for information which is available.
We have pointed you in the right direction and an example here is another college of policing document referring to the NCDV so you do have information.
It is not acceptable for the College of Policing to say it is up to the NCDV as to how they advertise their services when you have been informed that the organisation appears to be operating fraudulently.
I have cut and pasted a copy of a direction and control complaint which should give rise to concern and we will submit a further FOI in due course to establish what you have done about this matter.
If police officers working in the field of domestic abuse in addition to solicitors and process servers have concerns, your organisation needs to be setting a example especially as you created the Police Code of ethics.
Further ACC Louisa Role from Avon and Somerset has apparently promoted the NCDV having attended its new premises describing it as a CIC which it is not, it is a private business.
Direction and Control Complaint
Police Reform Act 2002
(Family Law Matters)
Breach of the Police Code of Ethics
Re: The promotion of the NCDV and distribution by police of NCDV business cards to victims of domestic abuse
Dear Chief Constable, 13 July 2015
In essence, this complaint not only concerns the distribution of such business cards and additional advertising materials for the NCDV but more importantly advertising a service which we feel is also putting victims at risk.
The NCDV is not a charity; it is a business which refers cases to its own panel of solicitors.
The company also appear to be acting fraudulently in describing itself as Community Interest Company ‘CIC’ in contracts sent to solicitors wishing to join their panel.
As a result of a concern raised by a family law solicitor we have checked and can confirm that the NCDV has never been a CIC.
The NCDV had quietly changed its status in 2012 to a private limited company with one director.
Its advertising also appears misleading with regards to the level of service it offers.
Clients who are unable to pay for a solicitor and do not qualify for legal aid have to pay £100 to have the injunctions served upon a Respondent.
We have also been involved in several cases where we have been instructed to serve injunctions when the NCDV process servers have failed; victims then have to pay us to serve the documents which means they have paid twice for the same service.
We have also had to assist a number of clients who were referred by the police initially and the NCDV did not help.
Local family solicitors and our own process serving section are losing work as a result of Northamptonshire Police promoting the NCDV using solicitors from far afield and process servers from a linked process serving agency in Surrey where the NCDV are based.
It is important that the police support their local solicitors and domestic abuse services.
Since the changes in Legal aid, many solicitors have gone out of business and those remaining work hard and struggle to continue to exist.
The NCDV has been duping police forces into allowing it to provide free domestic violence courses which; are effectively a 45 minute presentation on promoting their business encouraging officers to distribute business cards to victims and encouraging them to use their service to obtain a non molestation order (civil injunction).
In addition, the NCDV are promoting their own database (ASSIST) for non molestation orders and a mobile phone app for referring victims.
Whilst the NCDV say this is free to the police; the database is unnecessary and is also a risk with regards to sensitive access.
Non molestation orders are placed on the Police National Computer by the police; this is readily accessible by police attending incidents via the control room to confirm that there is an injunction in place, the conditions of the injunction and a note to police officers concerning their power of arrest.
Concerns have even been raised in the House of Commons regarding the operation of the NCDV.
The following is a quote from a published document from a select committee meeting at the House of Commons from Cris McCurley:
“Through Resolution we have been discussing the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV). This is an organisation which invites lawyers to go on an injunction panel. There have been grave concerns raised by most professional bodies including the Legal Services Commission (LSC) about this organisation although they seem to have acquired a level of credibility that I can say from my experience appears to mask dubious practice. They will only place solicitors on their referral list if that solicitor will agree to pay them a fee for preparation of court documents. Not only does this amount to an under the table referral fee but it leads to the provision of unsatisfactory case papers on the part of the client. On one occasion I arrived at court with a bundle of case papers prepared by them. They had clearly been prepared by someone who had little or no knowledge or experience of domestic violence and who did not know what questions to ask. It was a skimpy application and statement at best. The person who had prepared it did not know enough to ask whether the perpetrator had previous convictions. He did—about three of four pages of convictions for violence which was probably one of the most salient points. The victims' case was prejudiced as we were refused permission to file a second (proper) statement.
Another difficulty with the NCDV, and the reason they stopped referring work to ourselves was the fact that they were clearly generating income by making local arrangements with process services (£50.00 per service) and then charging three times this much as that in their bill which they encouraged us to claim as disbursements from the LSC. We pointed out that this was fraud and never heard from them again. In the new C100 application from for the court, they are advertised which gives them the aura of approval. This is being taken up with Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS) by Resolution.”
Further; a very experienced family law solicitor from another force area wrote to their own police force raising similar concerns; I reproduce the relevant section below:
“I write to express my concerns at the continued police and public service endorsement of a business run by Steve Connor which is called NCDV.
I also work on a national level for CAADA where I am a guest speaker on the IDVA training.
I first expressed my concerns over a year ago to your legal department ( which cooperated fully and took appropriate action).
I note that ACPO apparently still support the business that is NCDV as I noted in the press recently that officers had been to the opening of the new HQ of NCDV.
WHAT IS NCDV ?
1. NCDV does not seem to exist at Companies House as a legal entity however it comprises of two other Limited Companies, namely;
a. The Centre For Domestic Violence Ltd (attachment 1)
Steve Connor is the only director of this business
b.Risk Consultants Ltd ( attachment 2)
Steve Connor is the only director of this business.
2.A domain check using a search engine such as 'whois ' or 'domain check' shows that the website NCDV is registered to Ryan Connor at Risk Consultants. (Attachment 3 which is not legible) Ryan Connor is the same as Steve Connor. He uses different names for different businesses.
3.It is also interesting to note that Ryan Connor at Risk Consultants has registered CAADA.co.uk<http://CAADA.co.uk> to himself. You will be aware of CAADA, it is the leading Home Office funded domestic abuse charity based in Bristol.CAADA is aware that Connor has registered the charity in his name and no longer endorse the business.It means that if a web search is done for CAADA, then the NCDV website will appear. ( attachment 4 shows this but again it is not legible )
4.Over the past few years I have spoken to many people who have had problems with NCDV. This includes 2 solicitors , one who is Manchester based and the other,Cris McCurley, is based in the North East. Attachment 5 is an article from The Home Affairs Committee in 2011 when Cris was invited to speak and during which she expressed her concerns regarding the activities of NCDV.I have highlighted on page 3 Cris's comments and she goes on to say that it had been pointed out to NCDV that their actions were fraudulent.
5. From the large number of people I have spoken to over the last few years about NCDV, it has been apparent , particularly amongst The Police Service, that the belief is that NCDV is a charity.This was the case pre 2012 but Mr Connor created a Limited company in 2012 without seemingly telling anyone. This misapprehension has continued uncorrected.
6. More recently when I have asked about the status of NCDV I have been told it is a' community interest company' (CIC) or ' not for profit'. This is Incorrect. It is possible that staff/ volunteers at the organisation are not aware that the organisation is a Limited company with one director.
It is clear from a check at Companies House that there is no CIC. If NCDV had such status then CIC would be written after 'The Centre for Domestic Violence’ or 'Risk Consultants'
HOW DOES NCDV OPERATE?
1. It is important that The Police understand how NCDV operates. It has developed an online referral app whereby officers are entering details of victims , ( I cannot see that NCDV has a Data Protection Licence) often without the victim's consent. NCDV will then contact the victim and assess their eligibility for legal aid. If the victim is eligible for legal aid then a student or paid member of staff at NCDV in Surrey will prepare a statement over the phone. That is not appropriate as victims should be having face to face contact with a support worker and a solicitor in their home area.
2. Once the statement has been prepared then it is sold for a fee to a solicitor on ' the panel'. From my observations in Manchester over the last few years, I am aware the solicitor which buys these statements is NOT from Greater Manchester and has no involvement with domestic abuse services in Greater Manchester. This has lead to problems for the victims as they have a non local solicitor who is not willing to visit these women in their homes and expects them to travel out of the area to have a legal appointment.
3. The solicitor who has bought the statement will then meet the victim at court .This will be the first such meeting and the solicitor will then make an application to the Judge based on the statement prepared by NCDV.
4. If the application is successful then the order from the court is sent back to a company called I-Doc Serve also based in Surrey. It is clear from looking at business histories that Mr Connor is closely associated with this company and until recently the 2 companies traded from the same address. The fee for serving of the order is therefore charged by this company in Surrey.
5. The victim is then left with a solicitor from out of the area, no domestic abuse support worker and an order which is unlikely to be effective in isolation. It is my experience that if women do not receive specialist support from IDVA/Women's Aid /Victim Support then they are unlikely to report breaches and they are more likely to resume their relationship with the perpetrator.
6. NCDV also state that they provide a McKenzie friend service if the victim is not eligible for legal aid. I have seen NO evidence of this whatsoever in Manchester. It is simply not true. I have spoken to numerous women who have told me that NCDV would do nothing to help them as they were not eligible for legal aid.
These practices appear to still be ongoing and are another concern for us with regards to safety of victims.
Firstly, the process servers being used appear to be untrained or checked and simply apply online to the process service agency connected to NCDV.
i-doc serve/NCDV Process Servers are not required to be registered with the ICO with regards to Data protection.
Process servers are paid on a sliding scale starting from £40 if the injunction is served on the first day to £60 if the injunction is served on a third day.
Process servers are also instructed to make the first attempt within 24 hours, these instructions and the pay structure is not conducive with the service of non molestation orders.
These orders are often obtained ex parte where efforts should be made immediately to trace and serve the Respondent because until the order is served it is not effective and as such the victim is not protected.
It also appears that victims are not aware that the confidential information they provide including their statement is e- mailed to i-doc serve who in turn e mail the documents to process servers who are not part of either i-doc serve or NCDV and simply act as self employed agents who are not checked and can apply to become one of i-docs agents online.
It is not common knowledge that process servers do not need to be licensed or trained and that the only stipulation in law is that a process server needs to be over 16 years of age.
It is not known if the force has conducted a risk assessment or considered due diligence concerning the promotion of the NCDV and/or the use of its ASSIST database with regards to sensitive access.
Our own personal experiences of dealing with victims lead us to believe that victims are being placed at unnecessary risk by the police promotion of the NCDV.
We have been in touch with you previously regarding our concerns that police are giving out these cards as opposed to taking appropriate action at the time.
On one occasion we spent 3 hours at Corby police station with a client trying to report DV harassment and concern over child abuse which; only took place after I telephoned the control room from the foyer wishing to make a formal complaint to an Inspector on behalf of our client.
The two special constables who had dealt with the initial incident simply gave out an NCDV card and replied to every question from the victim that she should contact the NCDV.
The victim did this and was informed that the NCDV could not assist and advised the victim to go back to the police.
Concerns regarding the referral by police officers to the NCDV
The police are breaching the police code of ethics and the standards of professional behaviour for police officers by promoting a single business.
The NCDV state that they never charge for their service however; victims are asked to pay the NCDV£100 for a process server to serve a non molestation order unless they are eligible for legal aid when the process serving fee is to be recovered by the solicitor from the Legal aid Agency.
As process servers in Northamptonshire, clients of NCDV have been referred to us by local solicitors when the NCDV process servers have failed to serve a Respondent. Victims then have to pay us meaning they have paid twice for the service of their non molestation order.
The NCDV does not appear to have in house process servers as described on their website and use a company called i-doc serve Ltd which is a process serving agency in Surrey who; in turn source process servers who they have recruited from their website.
The delay in the non molestation orders reaching process servers; usually by e mail is not conducive with the service of non molestation orders which are usually obtained ex parte and need to be served as soon as possible. Non Molestation Orders issued on a Friday are often sent by e mail on a Monday to a process server and in some cases this has been considerably longer.
As cheques/payment for £100 are to be made to the NCDV for service of a non molestation order, it is natural to assume that there is some business arrangement with i-doc serve Ltd who arrange service of the non molestation order using process servers who are self employed and acting as agents for i-doc serve Ltd.
Anyone can apply to become a process server via this company’s website, there does not appear to be any training or due diligence conducted to ascertain if the applicants are suitable for the role which; often entails serving papers for vulnerable victims and sometimes upon violent respondents.
With police no longer attending with process servers to prevent a breach of the peace when serving violent Respondents, process servers need skills and experience accumulated over several years to do the job.
Process Servers acting for the NCDV/i-doc serve Ltd are provided templates for affidavits which do not comply with the Protocol for Process Servers of the Domestic Abuse Council of the Family Justice Committee and contain insufficient information which could be used by Respondents to challenge service of the document.
MG11 Section 9 CJA statements are required by the CPS to prove that an order has been served as a breach of a non molestation order is a criminal offence. The NCDV have cut corners by introducing the wording of the Sec 9 declaration at the end of a civil affidavit which is not recognised by the CPS and has confused the courts by having an oath and a separate declaration in the same document.
A copy of an MG11 is supposed to provided to the police when a non molestation order has been served which; is something I have previously raised with your force and does not appear to have been addressed.
The payment system for the i-doc serve agents is also not conducive to encouraging prompt service of non molestation orders where a fee of £40 is paid if the order is served on the first attempt or £60 is paid for a third visit which could be on a third day.
If the order is not served it is simply sent back to i-doc serve with an affidavit of attempts to serve, the victim remains at risk as the order is not effective until it has been served.
Only 3 visits are permitted, no mileage is paid so it is unlikely that a process server will conduct surveillance or investigations to try and serve the order when a relatively low fixed fee is being paid.
From our own calculations having studied the solicitor’s contract with the NCDV and the terms and conditions provided by i-doc serve to process servers, each referral by a police officer giving out an NCDV business card to a victim could be worth several hundred pounds to the NCDV.
Depriving local solicitors and process servers of work
Local family law solicitors have good local connections with support agencies such as the Sunflower centre and are best placed to deal with local cases using established local professional process servers.
The NCDV had a place in the past in the domestic abuse sector however; with funding being devolved locally to the PCC and the focus on victims locally, any advice regarding domestic abuse can be obtained from any local family law solicitor, the Sunflower Centre and a host of other places and charitable organisations.
Every local firm of family law solicitors would have a legitimate right to complain regarding the unethical way the force is operating contrary to the police code of ethics by promoting an individual business.
Due to the police promoting the NCDV, local solicitors and process servers are being deprived of work and equally importantly, victims of domestic abuse are receiving a sub standard service.
We have previously complained to Northamptonshire Police and the PCC concerning the force handling of Non Molestation Orders in a letter dated 28 July 2014.
It would be beneficial if the previous complaint was read in detail.
The situation is only likely to deteriorate further with the recent impetus of the NCDV in offering free domestic violence courses to police forces which; is effectively a 45 minute presentation promoting their business and the police handing out NCDV business cards to victims of domestic abuse.
This is also a false economy as more non molestation orders are likely to be issued following the promotion of the NCDV civil injunction service by the police rather than suspects being dealt with for criminal offences at the time.
There are likely to be more calls to the police when orders are breached and more complaints about the police not acting on breaches of non molestation orders.
The Chief Constable is respectfully asked to review the promotion of the NCDV and in the interim issue an instruction that no further business cards or other material is distributed
promoting the NCDV.
As an alternative to promotion of the NCDV; the force may wish to consider promoting
local support and assistance similar to Northamptonshire County Council who supply a list of local family law solicitors which; could also include details of the local domestic abuse funded support organisations such as the Sunflower Centre.
In summary therefore, I would like Northamptonshire police to be aware that NCDV is a profit making business in Surrey and by supporting this business the victims of domestic abuse in Northamptonshire are not receiving the holistic local support they need.
Please implement necessary changes and encourage your staff to refer to local services. As previously mentioned in correspondence, we would be please to work with you in improving the present systems in Northamptonshire for dealing with non molestation orders.
Cc. Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire
Legal Aid Agency
Independent Police Support Group
Thank you for your email requesting an internal review of the decision made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Please find attached your acknowledgment letter.
Neil Smith | Ethics, Integrity & Public Interest
College of Policing
Email: [email address]
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Further to your recent request to the College of Policing under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, please find attached your response letter.
Neil Smith | Ethics, Integrity and Public Interest
College of Policing
Email: [email address]
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