Recently, Judis, a 30 year old single father of two children, attended our Goodna Advice Bureau seeking assistance after being charged with a criminal offence. Judis had previously sought assistance from a private solicitor, however he did not qualify for Legal Aid and could not afford private fees. The private solicitor referred Judis to our service.
Judis had faced many challenges in his past. The child of parents from a refugee background, his first language was not English and he struggled with school. Every day Judis experienced the effects of his parents’ trauma related to living in refugee camps for many years. His father later abandoned his mother and his mother was left to struggle as a single mother with three children. Judis lived with the effects of his parents’ trauma, their life experiences and their failing health.
As his parents had spent the majority of their lives running from militia, gangs in refugee camps and corrupt authorities, Judis had an ingrained sense of distrust of authority figures. Although Judis hadn’t endured the same experiences as his parents, the impact on his parents was so great that Judis also experienced a real sense of fear and anxiety whenever he had to interact with police.
When Judis arrived in Australia, he learned English, knowing this was the language he would need in his new home. While Judis’s English skills improved when he commenced school, he tended to lapse back into his native language during moments of high stress or emotion. As a result, Judis’s comprehension of English was reduced when his emotions were compromised.
Despite these difficulties, Judis embraced life in Australia. He began to excel at school and enjoyed his new community. With the support from his mother, Judis graduated from high school and has been accepted into university. Judis is the first member of his family to complete a secondary education and will soon become be the first to compete university.
On the night of the alleged offence, Judis and a friend were sitting in a parked car. Earlier that day, Judis had received the distressing news that his auntie had passed away after a lengthy and painful illness. Judis was very attached to his auntie as she had lived with Judis and his family after his father left. His auntie was his mother’s older sister and the matriarch of the household.
Judis and his friend were having a commiserating drink in the memory of his auntie when Police Officers approached the car. At the request of the Officers, Judis undertook a breathalyser test, which returned a positive result. The Officers informed Judis that he was to be detained for a further test at the Police Station. Judis was detained as a result of returning a positive test while being in control of a motor vehicle. Judis believed that you could only be charged with this offence if the vehicle was being driven, and due to both his distress and compromised English skills, he struggled to understand the explanation provided by the Police Officers. Judis, who was already distressed by the death of his auntie, became highly agitated. He acted in an argumentative and belligerent manner towards the Police. As a result of his attitude the Police Officers became frustrated and arrested him for obstructing Police. After his arrest, Judis was taken to the local Police station where he returned a negative breath specimen for both alcohol and illicit substances.
After reviewing the summary of the court brief, Salvos Legal Humanitarian staff decided that Judis would greatly benefit from our assistance. At his next Court date, Judis entered a plea of guilty to the charge of obstructing Police. Our submissions to the Court highlighted the fact that a conviction would prevent Judis from pursuing his university career or that it would significantly impact on his ability to find work after graduation. Judis had not been in any significant trouble with the law previously and, while still wary of the Police and authority figures generally, Judis was slowly becoming aware that perceptions of authority formed in his birth country were not valid in Australia. The Court placed Judis on a good behaviour Bond for a period of four months, with no conviction recorded. This was delightful news and a just outcome.
If Salvos Legal Humanitarian had not assisted him, it is highly likely that Judis would have had a conviction recorded, which would have affected his ability to practice in his desired field after he graduated from university. Our assistance led to an outcome which leaves Judis free to move forward with his life and future career.