Imagine you are taken from your home in the middle of the night, wearing your pajamas. You are thrown into a cell, without being told how long you will stay there, or what you are waiting for.
Next thing you see is a man wearing a uniform that is unfamiliar to you, who is using words you have never heard before. From what you can gather, this man is saying you that you aren’t going home to see your baby girl, but you don’t really understand why. He is asking about the most intimate details of your life. Questions like – how is your relationship with your parents? When did you last use drugs? Do you have any medical issues?
Next thing you know, you are thrown out into the light, wearing someone else’s clothes that are six sizes too big, you are totally lost. You are told to be quiet while someone whose name you don’t know will argue for your freedom. Without a word from you, you are told that you won’t be going home for the next 6-9 months.
This is a common story in the criminal justice system.
One particular man’s story will stick with me for the rest of my career, I watched from afar and was terribly affected by what I saw.
He was a man with learning difficulties. He bragged to a woman that he was able to supply her with guns, in an effort to impress her enough that she might sleep with him (some gentleman might understand the will to embellish to impress a girl).
As it turned out, the police were listening to this conversation. He was charged with the unlawful supply of weapons, an offence which often carries periods of imprisonment.
After a trip to the Supreme Court, he was granted bail. His lawyers at the time told him to do this, and to do that, and if you do, you won’t go to jail. For nine months he was able to go about his life. He got into work, he supported his family, he got away from the wrong crowd, everything his lawyers told him.
Then came his day in Court. Wearing someone else’s shirt and pants, because he didn’t own anything his lawyers approved of. Tie done up backwards because he has never had to tie one before.
A Lawyer he had never met before that day, who was wearing a barrister’s wig to go with his robes, told him that his best chance of staying out of prison was to plead guilty to the offence, on the basis that he made an offer to supply. The catch is that he never had any guns. He couldn’t have supplied them, even if he did want to.
He truly did not understand how he could be charged with supplying weapons he did not own, but he did what his lawyers suggested, because he just wanted to go home to his family.
Things broke down during his sentencing, and he was remanded into custody until the Court had time to return to his matter later in the week. As he was dragged out of the court room to the holding cells he cried ‘But I’ve done everything right. I’ve done everything you wanted. Why are they doing this to me.’ His legal team did not even go and see him in the cells that night.
Due to the position taken by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, he was forced to give evidence a few days later. In the same old clothes, he sat beneath a person wearing a wig and robes and told his story, knowing that if she did not believe him, then he was looking at a long stint in jail. He cried on the stand and he blew kisses to his daughter.
Ultimately, he convinced the Judge that he never had any weapons, and she released him the same day. But during this process, he had been terrified, confused and forced to leave his life in the hands of men and women he didn’t know working under a system he did not understand.
Matters like this affirm our commitment to making the criminal process as accessible as possible to our clients. We will take the time to explain things to you. We will give you the information you need to know to make a decision a long time before you are required to make any decisions. We will treat you as though this is the biggest thing in your life. We will understand your stress, and we will work around you. Not the other we around. Ultimately, we will do everything we can to make it right.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are scared or confused and you want a lawyer who will treat your charges with the level of care and commitment you require, contact our criminal team. We have offices in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Beenleigh.