Salvos Legal first met Ivan and his carer Maria at our Lakemba advice bureau in early January 2017.
Ivan is an 81 year old pensioner who had been charged by police for allegedly assaulting his 20 year old neighbour, Corey, and maliciously damaging Corey’s car with a key. The police had applied for and obtained an interim Apprehended Personal Violence Order restraining Ivan from approaching Corey or his three older brothers, who all lived in a house together across the road from Ivan.
Maria told us she visited Ivan most days and took him to all his appointments. She was very much involved in Ivan’s daily routine and events.
Both Ivan and Maria said whilst there was some tension between the neighbours (because there were six cars parked in or around Corey’s property and Corey and his friends liked to ‘rev’ their cars for long periods), there had never been any assaults, property damage or altercations.
Ivan told us that though he now had significant memory loss, none of the alleged incidents that related to the charges had occurred. Both he and Maria said it would be most out of character and highly improbable.
Ivan had retired from his career as a teacher 17 years ago and had all but used up his superannuation funds so he could not afford a private lawyer to represent him. Ivan told us that he felt very worried about facing criminal charges. He had no criminal record and had never been in trouble with the police before.
Ivan needed to attend court in two days’ time and asked for our help. We attended Court and asked for extra time to consider Ivan’s options. We reviewed the police brief of evidence and considered the case against Ivan to be very weak.
Ivan had been diagnosed with dementia. This condition made it very difficult for Ivan to defend the charges, as he had significant memory impairment.
In late 2016, Corey made a statement to police that he had seen Ivan use a key to damage his car. Corey said in his statement the incident had occurred three months earlier. He also said that it was only after Ivan had circled the entire car, damaging seven panels with his key, that he confronted Ivan and said, “I saw you do it. We will deal with this later”.
Instead of calling police, Corey stated that he contacted his insurer, who referred him to his local smash repairer, who provided a verbal quote of $4,800 to repair the damage.
A few days later, Corey made a second statement to police alleging that, without provocation, Ivan had approached him as he sat in his car on the street and punched him in the side of the head through the open window.
Ivan told us that he did not assault Corey or ‘key’ his car, nor would he ever consider doing so. Ivan was extremely upset about the charges.
We believed there were real questions about Corey’s credibility in light of his account of events and his delay in reporting the damage to police (as well as our clear instructions that no such incidents had occurred).
We assessed all the police evidence and found some of the damaged panels were very low to the ground and it was difficult to see how anyone, let alone an octogenarian, could do it as they ‘walked around the vehicle’.
We made further enquiries with Corey’s compulsory insurer. The insurer confirmed that no claim had ever been made against Ivan. We were also advised that the smash repairer that Corey had contacted was not a preferred repairer of the insurer. Under subpoena, we found a single page letter from another insurer for a different car at Corey’s address. The claim had been lodged by Corey’s brother and also identified Ivan as being responsible for the damage.
We then contacted this insurer and found the insurer had discontinued their claim against Ivan as there was no evidence that he was responsible for the damage.
After we had gathered and analysed the available information about the case, we lodged our submissions to police asking that the charges be dropped and the interim APVO not be made on a final basis.
We submitted that it was implausible that a young motor enthusiast would passively observe an octogenarian ‘keying’ his car and not report it to police for a number of months. We pointed out there was no corroborating evidence to support any insurance claim regarding the car and key damage.
We further submitted that our client was a mature person with no history of violence and no criminal record whatsoever. Ivan had told us he would be too scared to punch a young man a quarter of his age, even if he were so inclined. We also noted that Corey and his brothers had since moved house and there was no ongoing contact between Ivan and Corey.
A month later, the police advised us that they accepted our submissions and would be withdrawing both charges, as well as the interim Apprehended Personal Violence Order.
Ivan and Maria were very happy when we called to tell them of the good news. They thanked us warmly for our involvement in their case. The matter had been extremely stressful for Ivan and he was hugely relieved to have the matter resolved and to have been exonerated through our assistance.