John's story - helping John to ensure his personal circumstances were properly taken into consideration by the court
Ensuring personal circumstances are properly taken into consideration by the Court
For John, access to a lawyer at IMCL meant ensuring his personal circumstances were properly taken into consideration by the court.
We first saw John by chance as duty lawyers in the Family Violence List at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court. He’d been ordered to not have any contact with his partner. He was more vulnerable than most owing to the fact that he was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, had serious mental health issues which significantly affected his decision-making capacity and was unable to write. The intervention order was a tricky matter, involving his partner who also had an intellectual disability, but it was resolved by agreement, allowing the parties to safely continue to see each other as they both wished.
During this consultation we checked-in with John to make sure he didn’t have any other legal problems. He told us he’d been charged with unrelated criminal offences. Whilst living in supported accommodation, he’d broken into the staff office and damaged property. He was likely experiencing poor mental health at the time.
This was an important cross-roads in his life and we knew it was important that he received comprehensive legal help. We booked him into our criminal law clinic for a subsequent appointment.
Ill-equipped to represent himself, IMCL appeared on his behalf at court and we successfully argued that he was an appropriate candidate for diversion. We explained that his experience of going through the court system had been a significant lesson, and punishment enough, particularly because his unstable mental health made him less morally culpable than others. He understood that damaging other people’s property wouldn’t be tolerated and agreed that as a condition of his diversion, he would consistently engage with mental health support workers to manage his symptoms and reduce his chances of getting into trouble again.
Diversion not only reflected the leniency John deserved, but it meant that he was able to avoid a criminal record and that this information would not be available to potential employers. This was crucial for John, as moving forward he hopes to secure paid work. This was crucial for John, as moving forward he hopes to secure paid work and contribute to his community.
John’s experience shows that IMCL provides a proper safety net, so that those in need can get the help they require before legal issues escalate and permanent damage is done, for the both the individuals and the community at large.
“If I could turn back the pages and change history I would do so but I can’t, so again I say I’m sorry, truly sorry.”