Keith’s story

Keith’s story
29th September, 2017

Sometimes, the best way of proving your client’s case is to have evidence provided by the other party.

In April 2017, Keith attended our Goodna advice bureau seeking aid after being charged with Obstructing Police. Keith was concerned and it clearly showed on his face. Keith sat there, with a distant look in his eyes and with his hands held together tightly as if to stop them shaking.

Before migrating to Australia, Keith had faced many challenges in his past. He was born on the African continent and in his early years, saw and lived through troubling times that ought not to have been witnessed by a child. Throughout this, Keith married and tried as best has he could to raise a family. In 2009 Keith and his wife and children had to flee their country to Uganda for their safety where they spent four years in a refugee camp. In 2014, Keith and his family were granted humanitarian visas and migrated to Australia. Further to arriving in Australia, Keith and his wife had two other children.

Despite the seemingly wonderful exterior and the prospects of a new life in Australia, Keith struggled. Keith had a difficult relationship with alcohol. Although he did not drink often, when he did, Keith did not know when to stop.

It was his inability to handle his alcohol which eventually led his wife to seek a protection order against Keith. As part of the protection order, Keith was required to leave the home which resulted in Keith becoming homeless. Additionally, because the protection order also named the children, he could no longer spend time with the children. Because he could no longer see his children and because he was homeless, Keith found an ill-advised coping mechanism in alcohol. Keith’s drinking worsened as he subsequently became depressed. To make matters worse, Keith’s command of English was so limited that he became easily frustrated at not being able to express himself in English.

As I sat across the table from him, Keith reluctantly handed over the police document provided to him by the Police Prosecutor. He did not know what it all meant. After reviewing the charges, it was obvious Keith would benefit from our assistance.

On the next Court appearance, our office made initial submissions and also requested body camera footage for our review. In response, the Prosecution provided us with body camera footage and amended facts.

Upon reading the amended facts, it was clear the amended facts were significantly different from the facts set out in the original police document. Because the facts were so different, it required our office spending significant time with our client and through an interpreter, securing Keith’s instructions in respect of the new set of facts. The difficulty was that, Keith could not remember much of what took place on that day. He was too drunk to remember.

Careful viewing of the video footage showed Keith being so drunk, he had difficulty standing up and where the police formed the view Keith had approached the police in an aggressive manner, we formed the view Keith was really trying to prevent himself from falling. More work needed to be done and the next Court date was fast approaching.

Our office decided it would be beneficial to make further submissions to the prosecution. Because of the significant differences between the facts contained in the Police Court Brief and the evidence in the video footage, our office presented the prosecution with a set of further amended facts for consideration. As a result of our further submissions, the Prosecution stated that they would be willing to have our client plead guilty to the further amended facts which set out Keith’s version of events. When this was put to Keith, he gladly gave his consent.

On the day of Sentencing Keith entered a plea of guilty to an offence of Obstructing Police based on the agreed facts, and received a $150.00 fine, which was referred directly to the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER). Because of his homelessness, our office offered to receive all correspondence from SPER in order to ensure Keith did not fall behind in his payments because of homelessness. As I left the Courthouse with Keith, and with his limited English, he thanked me for helping him.

If Salvos Legal Humanitarian had not assisted Keith, it is highly likely that the outcome would have been far worse when one considers the video evidence was significantly different from the facts set out in the police written document.

Our assistance meant Keith was not only better able to understand the charge he was facing, he was also able to plead guilty to facts that matched the true events of the incident. Our assistance therefore led to a just outcome, allowing justice to be satisfied while allowing Keith to move on from this incident, with the hope of getting his life back on track.

Keith has returned to our office on several occasions within hours of receiving a telephone call from us, and on each occasion, Keith has been sober.

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