Derbyshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Gillott today visited volunteers behind a new project delivering free legal support and advice for victims of domestic abuse in the county.
The Deputy PCC attended the University of Derby’s Law School to see students undertake training to prepare them to act as McKenzie Friends for Salcare’s ESCAPE Domestic Abuse Support Service.
The McKenzie Friends project is designed to support vulnerable people who are unable to afford legal representation and assistance in court.
McKenzie Friends provide support to victims of domestic abuse in applying to the court for protective injunctions such as Non-Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders. They will also be trained on how to complete the necessary paperwork, draft statements and the procedures of going to court.
Delivered in partnership with the University of Derby’s Law School, the project is aimed at law and criminology students who will volunteer as McKenzie Friends for the ESCAPE service following completion of training.
The students are being mentored and supported by the University and ESCAPE. Volunteers will benefit from an ongoing training scheme covering Domestic Homicide Review awareness, taking effective witness statements, safe use of Face Book and questioning and listening skills.
After their initial training, they will be assigned mentors who will support them as they begin working on behalf of vulnerable clients.
The project was recently awarded funding by the Police and Crime Commissioner from his Community Action Grant funding stream to support its work.
Commenting on his visit, Mr Gillott said: “I was very impressed by the professionalism of the law students and the quality of the training to deliver this valuable support service to vulnerable men and women across Derbyshire. Escaping abuse is a frightening experience and having access to someone who can advise them on the legal process can be critical to long-term recovery and safety.
“Although legal aid is available for victims of domestic abuse, this is dependent on sufficient evidence being presented and financial circumstances. If this is unavailable or unobtainable, the victim is often forced to represent themselves in court or does not attend. Such a situation can cause a great deal of fear and anxiety and place people in a vulnerable position.
“The McKenzie Friends project offers practical help designed to lessen the fear of the court process and help victims fight their case more effectively.”
Lizzie Nugent, team leader for Escape, said: “This support has been desperately needed for some time as lots of victims of domestic abuse feel frightened, unsupported and are financially unable to pay for legal advice, and do not meet the means-tested threshold for legal aid. Our service is free to all victims.”
Liz Doherty-Astle, one of the University of Derby’s law lecturers involved with the McKenzie Friends initiative, is delighted that so many of her student have decided to enrol as volunteers: “Volunteering not only provides unique insights into our legal system, but it provides invaluable experiences that cannot be taught in the classroom, which will help them in their chosen career.”
Derbyshire Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner: Sallie Blair 01283 821012 / 07702 541401
Escape: 01773 765899
Lizzie Nugent: 07484 051964
Dena Trossell: 07484 511781
Derby University: Alice Oliver 01332 592032
Posted on Wednesday 22nd March 2017