Sally Wadsworth describes a typical day at the office.
I like to plan ahead, so when I leave the office one day it tends to be with a plan for the next day. However, I’m used to seeing my plans change when I see or speak with a client who urgently needs protection from the Court. After more than 20 years working in family law, very little shocks me anymore, but I do find it shocking that domestic abuse sadly remains a day-to-day experience for many people.
Clients are extremely vulnerable and are very often visibly upset and shaken by their experience. They may never have set foot in a solicitor’s office before and many say how nervous they are.
My first job is to listen. I am, too often, the first person a victim of domestic abuse has been able to tell about their experiences. Some people come to see me knowing that the time has come to get out of an abusive relationship. For them, I quickly make a judgment call about the circumstances and whether a Court will make a protective injunction. If I believe that they will, it’s then a matter of doing a legal aid assessment. Legal aid is still available for most victims of domestic abuse – so we get the legal aid forms filled in before drafting a statement and an application form and heading down to Court. From my client arriving in the office to an order being made can often be a matter of a couple of hours, or even less. The local Judges fit in these urgent applications at very short notice, and people are often surprised that an order is made in the space of a few minutes’ hearing.
Once the Order is made by the Judge I arrange for the order to be personally served on the Respondent and serve a copy on the police. It is extremely satisfying knowing you have helped to protect a vulnerable person from domestic abuse. Taking the steps we have can be the first day of a new life for them – and its so rewarding to reflect on having a part in that.
Then it’s back to the office to pick up on those plans for the day …