We first met Maria in February 2015 at our Auburn Advice Bureau. She was clearly distressed, embarrassed and remorseful as she told us that she had been charged with Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm following an argument with her husband. Maria was also extremely concerned about the possible impact a criminal conviction would have on her ability to continue to practice as a nurse.
Maria told us that she had moved to Australia in 2012 with her husband and their young son to work as a nurse. Shortly after the move, Maria had her second child.
Maria and her family were adjusting well to life in Australia until she was diagnosed with a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2014. Maria required surgery and multiple cycles of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and was also forced to take unpaid leave from her from her job while she was receiving treatment. As a result Maria and her husband had incurred large debts as they struggled to support their young family and pay for the expensive medical treatment she required.incurred large debts as they struggled to support their young family and pay for the expensive medical treatment she required.
The day before Maria’s argument with her husband, she was scheduled to attend an oncology appointment to receive the results of her most recent tests. Maria was very anxious about the results and her husband was to attend the appointment with her for support. On the morning of the appointment Maria’s husband went out not letting her know where he was going. Maria attempted to contact him by calling his phone, but he did not answer, and consequently Maria attended the appointment alone.
Maria explained to us that she and her husband argued about his failure to attend the medical appointment with her the next day, and that she had completely lost control of her emotions and hit him.
We understood that Maria had no prior criminal history and that the stress experienced because of her illness and financial situation was a strong contributing factor towards her actions. We accepted her explanation that she had never been violent towards her husband before and that her behaviour was totally out of character.
Although Maria admitted that she had hit her husband, after speaking with Maria and reviewing the police evidence it appeared to us that her husband had not been injured. As such, we advised Maria that we considered that the charge of Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm was excessive and we should seek to negotiate with the police. Maria agreed that she would plead guilty to the lesser offence of Common Assault if the police withdrew the charge of Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm and instructed us to enter into charge negotiations with the police.
As Salvos Legal began assisting Maria to prepare for her upcoming court date, she developed a strong rapport with one of our chaplains who encouraged her to attend counselling. Maria began engaging in regular individual counselling and her husband agreed to attend relationship counselling with her.
Before Maria’s hearing, the police agreed to withdraw the charge of Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm and the lesser charge of Common Assault was entered.
The Magistrate took into account that Maria appeared before the Court with no criminal record, that she had entered a plea of guilty at the first available opportunity, and that she had taken the initiative to seek counselling to address the underlying issues that had contributed to the offence. After taking into account all the mitigating factors in her case, the Magistrate dismissed the charge without entering a conviction against Maria.
Maria was extremely grateful and tearfully told us outside of the Courtroom that she would not have known what to do without the support of Salvos Legal. Maria has continued to engage in counselling and is focusing on strengthening her relationship with her husband, who attended Court to support her on the day of her hearing. Maria’s case is a great example of the important role the Salvos Legal chaplains play in helping us to address each client’s holistic needs, rather than simply addressing their legal issues in isolation.