We first met Paul and his partner, Sally, at our Auburn Advice Bureau. Paul had been charged with common assault following an incident that took place in his home, involving Paul, Sally, and one of their housemates.
Paul had recently migrated here to live with his Australian partner, and had not yet found a job. This meant that Paul was unable to afford private legal representation, but he was also ineligible for Legal Aid as the offence did not meet the criteria of being likely to involve a gaol sentence. Paul was very concerned about the potential impact of a criminal conviction on his migration status and his future employment prospects in Australia.
The police were acting on allegations of assault made by Paul’s housemate, after the housemate had sent a text message to Sally telling her that she was beautiful. The police facts sheet accused Paul of pushing his housemate several times, choking him, punching him in the stomach, pushing him to the ground and then kicking him in the face.
Sally was the only witness to the incident, and her description of it was consistent with Paul’s. She showed us the text messages she had received from her housemate on the day of the incident, and said that they made her feel uncomfortable and frightened at the time. After reading the text messages we felt that Sally’s concerns were entirely reasonable.
Paul and Sally explained what happened when their housemate returned home that evening. They approached the housemate to speak to him as soon as he walked in the door, but the housemate became aggressive, walking straight over to Paul, while yelling and making threats. Then he pushed Paul. Paul became concerned for his and Sally’s safety, so he pushed their housemate against a wall and held him there by the shoulders for a few seconds before he and Sally went to their room to calm down.
Paul and Sally were shocked when the police arrived at their house. Having only recently moved to Australia from another country, and speaking English as a second language, Paul felt scared and confused when the police were interviewing him at his house. He didn’t understand why he was being arrested and taken to the police station since Sally had told the police he had done nothing wrong.
We believed that Sally and Paul were telling the truth about what happened that night, and the police had got it wrong.
Paul pled not guilty to the charge, and we were able to represent him at his hearing. The brief of evidence that we received was poorly constructed by the police and revealed significant weaknesses in their case against Paul. The police had no independent witnesses to corroborate the alleged victim’s claims.
The Magistrate concluded that there was not enough evidence to convict Paul, and commented that Paul and Sally’s housemate was an unreliable witness, who had embellished his evidence. The Magistrate accepted that what in fact occurred was that Paul’s housemate had pushed him, and that Paul had legitimately acted to defend himself and Sally.
After the stress of the hearing was behind him, Paul thanked us and told us that he felt supported by all of the members of the team who had worked on his case from beginning to end. He and Sally have moved house and are excited to begin a new chapter in their life together.