Page 3 of 3When I arrived home at about 8.40am I found my mother and sister asleep. WTF! I just spent the night in jail with no sleep and they are sleeping soundly, tucked up in their warm beds. I was furious.
I woke them up and yelled at them both for throwing me under a bus with the police. I was particularly hurt by the statement my mother had given to the police. It was full of factual errors (even the most basic details were wrong) and my mother admitted that she signed it without reading it because it was 4am and she just wanted to go home to bed. She also told me that she didn’t want to make a statement but the police officer told her she had to. I explained to mum that the statement she signed had really dropped me in it and that I would have to go to court to defend myself against a pretty damning piece of police evidence.
As you can well imagine, the atmosphere at home was pretty tense that day. I spent the day in my room on the phone relating my tale of woe to my brother, my two adult sons and my best friend (who happens to be a lawyer in Melbourne). But by Tuesday night there was no-one else to call and I was left alone with my thoughts.
Having never been arrested and charged by the police before, I was very worried about what would happen to me. I’d been told the likelihood of being sent to prison was very remote but I knew that even a conviction without imprisonment can have some serious consequences. While I didn’t have any plans to return to my previous work in the area of law, a conviction would make that impossible. Furthermore, I’ve always wanted to travel overseas but a conviction would make that much more difficult. Even without a conviction, my life would never be the same. For the rest of my life, when asked if I have ever been arrested I would have to say, “Yes”. I knew a criminal record would follow me for the rest of my life and charges would show up on a criminal record check for at least ten years.
At one point in the evening I disconnected the Foxtel from the TV in the lounge-room telling my sister and mother, “I pay for it and I’m taking it away.” It sounds childish now but I didn’t think they deserved to enjoy what I was paying for when their actions had caused me so much mental anguish and emotional pain.
WARNING: DISTURBING OR UPSETTING CONTENT. I became very depressed that night and I really wanted to die. I even went so far as to place a noose around my neck. I was on my knees, leaning forward, one of the Foxtel electrical cords around my neck restricting the blood flow to my head. For about 10-15 seconds I remained in that position thinking about how easy it would be to just let go and pass out. Then I thought about my two sons whom I love and adore. I thought about how taking my own life would cause them pain and irrevocable damage. So I straightened my back, taking the pressure off my neck and removed the cord from around me neck and untied it from around the bed post.
A short time later I entered the lounge-room with the Foxtel IQ box and it was while I was hooking it back up to the TV that my sister said to my mother, “We have to go down to the police station and stop this. You have to withdrawal that statement and we have to get the charges dropped and the AVO dropped.” My mother, who always goes along with what L wants, agreed. I remained silent but on the inside my soul was jumping for joy.
Unfortunately, the police refused to drop anything. The police told my mother and sister if they wanted the matter dropped they would have to speak to the chamber magistrate. Two days later they went to the Campbelltown Court House and were told there isn’t a chamber magistrate service anymore. They were directed instead to the Domestic Violence Liaison who agreed, as far as domestic violence matters go, the incident was a trivial matter but there was nothing they could do to stop it.
Facing the Magistrate at Campbelltown Local Court
On Tuesday 30th June 2015 I fronted up to the Local Court with my mother and sister. Shortly after arriving it was made very clear to me that if you are charged with an offense, even if you are innocent or it’s a trivial matter, you are treated like a convicted criminal. While my mother and sister were treated to free coffee and tea, as an offender I had to pay $1 for my cup of tea. That may not appear to be such a big deal to some, but it’s just one of many small indignities you have to tolerate when you’re labelled a ‘criminal’.
I told the police assisting the prosecutor that I wanted to plead guilty to the malicious damage charge but I would not consent to the AVO. They couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t consent because to their way of thinking it wasn’t a crime unless you breached it. One of the officers said, “The conditions of the AVO aren’t that harsh. If you don’t consent there will have to be a hearing.” That’s the last thing I wanted to hear because I was hoping the whole thing would be over and done with on that day. But I couldn’t consent to the AVO because to my way of thinking, doing so would be making an admission to the court that I was a violent person who posed a physical threat to my mother and sister and I knew this to be a lie.
But I did choose to plead guilty to the malicious damage charge and throw myself on the mercy of the court. My best friend is a solicitor in Melbourne and she advised that because it was my first offense and a relatively trivial matter, no conviction would be recorded. After talking with my mother and sister, the Domestic Violence Liaison advised me to adjourn the matter and get legal advice. I didn’t want to do that because a) I worked for the Legal Aid Commission for several years and it was just too humiliating to seek legal advice from them on a criminal matter; and b) I wanted the matter over and done with because I am scheduled to undergo major surgery in a public hospital during the month of July.
While I waited for my matter to come before the magistrate, I worried that maybe I had made the wrong decision and that I should just consent to the AVO. But as I watched a few other domestic violence matters being dealt with I compared what I had done to the physical assaults these men had committed against their partners and I thought Surely the court can see that I’m nothing like these guys.
When I fronted up to the magistrate he looked over the court papers and said with a smile, “So you threw a tantrum did you Ms Robinson?”
As soon as I saw that smile I knew that the magistrate considered it be a relatively trivial matter and that was good news for me.
I told the court that my mother and sister didn’t want the matter to go this far and they certainly didn’t want the AVO. I also told the court about my sister and mother’s efforts to get the matter dropped. I also said that I had apologised to my mother and sister (which I had) and to the police (which I had) for what I had done. I also apologised to the court saying that it would never happen again and I meant it.
The magistrate looked up at my mother and sister who were sitting in the public gallery and said, “Is that right ladies?”
“Yes,” they replied in unison.
The police prosecutor stood up and told the court that the police wanted to press the AVO. The magistrate thought about it for a moment and then replied, “I’m dismissing this,” and with a stoke of his mighty pen the AVO was dismissed.
As I had hoped no conviction was recorded for the malicious damage charge. As required by law, the magistrate did give me a good behaviour bond and told me that he was confident that I wouldn’t re-offend.
I breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Thank you Your Honour. Much appreciated.”
On our way out of the court room my mother stopped me and gave me a big hug. All my life I had been uncertain about whether or not I had mother’s love, so her actions both shocked and delighted me. My sister and I then walked arm-in-arm towards the entrance to the court house. I was happy to see that they really did care because when I was sitting in that cell a week earlier, I had begun to wonder whether they ever really cared about me at all.
Downstairs in the registry I signed my good behaviour bond and was handed a bill for court costs of $159.
As we were walking back to the car mum told me she was worried that her statement would hurt me in court and that she felt really guilty about it. “I’ll never do that again,” she said, referring to the statement she gave the police. My sister also promised that she would never call the cops again unless someone was physically hurt.
My sister had told me earlier in the week: “I never wanted you charged. I just wanted the police to have a talk with you so you would get off my back.”
We all learned a lesson in this regard. Once you involve the police you can lose control over the situation pretty quickly, resulting in some serious unintended consequences. What if I had committed suicide?
I say this not to discourage anyone from contacting the police if they feel they are in danger of being harmed in any way because there is never an excuse for physical violence. However, I think it’s important to note that inviting the police into family conflict won’t fix a dysfunctional relationship. In fact, in many cases, it will only make matters worse. At best, it will resolve nothing.
In regards to my family, nothing has really changed. My sister still verbally abuses our mother every day of the week and mum is still making excuses for her bad behaviour. L still lives in the lounge-room, smoking too much pot and surrounded by too much junk. The only thing that has really changed is: ME.
When my sister loses her temper and screams at the top of her voice, I simply ignore it. I still don’t like the way she swears and screams at our mother but I don’t intervene anymore. I learned my lesson well and stay out of it. I may not like it but they began relating to each other in this way long before I moved in and they will continue to do so long after I move out. I spend most of my time at home in my bedroom (which is a converted garage) where I have everything I need (except sound proofing). I have a cute lap dog, a computer and printer, a TV with Foxtel, a comfortable bed, lots of books to read, a heater when it’s cold and an air cooler when the temperature rises. I also have plenty of work to do on this website and I am currently studying online for a university degree.
I’ve also experienced a change in perspective in regards to offenders. Like most people who have never been arrested, I always assumed everyone who was charged with an offense was probably a bad person. I know longer believe this to be true. Now I can see how a basically good, honest person can easily end up in police custody for one mistake. Just one momentary lapse in good judgement and the course of your life can be altered forever. So be careful and whatever you do, don’t lose your temper.