ADLA Conference 2023 – Early Stage Resolution Panel Discussion
The article ADLA Conference 2023 – Early Stage Resolution Panel Discussion is written by Maya George, Lawyer, Doogue + George Defence Lawyers.
Maya was a Judge's associate at the County Court's Criminal Division prior to joining Doogue + George. Before this she was also a Legal Policy Officer in the Chief Magistrate's Chambers where she gained much experience on the operational requirements of the Magistrates’ Courts.
With a Bachelor of Arts (major in human rights) and a Bachelor of Laws from Monash University, Maya graduated with first class honours. She looks forward to working with clients from a variety of backgrounds particularly members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Often, people don’t approach a defence lawyer until they have been charged with an offence and have a court date approaching – but there are many steps that can be taken before this stage, to reach the best outcome. At the Australian Defence Lawyers Alliance conference, we heard from Doogue + George’s Amelia Ramsay, along with Casey Isaacs from Caldicott + Isaacs Lawyers, and Joe Wicking from Potts Lawyers, about early stage resolution and its many benefits.
Avoiding Charges Altogether
Being charged with a criminal offence is a stressful experience and can have a serious impact on a person’s life, so preventing charges from being laid at all comes with substantial benefits. Amelia described her work at Doogue + George in providing police with written submissions, pre-charge, to persuade police against charging. In one recent case, Amelia’s client was interviewed by police in relation to wilful exposure. The client, a cyclist, instructed that he was shaving himself inside his home, and – unbeknownst to him – people were observing him from outside. Amelia engaged a private investigator to take photographs and measurements at the client’s home; she secured statements from her client’s family about his movements that morning; and she obtained the data from his Garmin watch to show his cycling history. Compiling this into written submissions that drew on the client’s interview with police, the complainants’ reliability, and the client’s good character, Amelia presented this to police and was successful in having the investigation closed, with no charges laid.
Setting Up a Trial Defence
While avoiding charges may seem the most obvious aim of early stage resolution, the panellists also discussed the benefits that can flow even where charges have been laid. Work done in the pre-charge and immediate post-charge stage can assist in establishing a defence to ultimately be used in trial. As Casey shared in a case study, where established promptly, this creates an opportunity for charges to be withdrawn early on in the court process.
Securing the Best Outcome at Plea
The panel pointed out that while we may often think these strategies are best used where the alleged conduct is disputed, early stage resolution can be very valuable in cases where a client intends to accept responsibility for their conduct, in order to ensure the most appropriate result. Considering resolution at an early stage means that clients are given an opportunity to make an informed choice, with advice about reasonable alternatives to contesting the charges. As Joe pointed out, when the most appropriate charges are laid from the beginning, clients can plead guilty at the earliest possible opportunity, meaning that the maximum sentencing benefit for a guilty plea will apply.
As a highlight of the conference, the panel provided us with an understanding of the strategy involved in this work, as well as practical tips – and we were very grateful for the panellists’ insight into what is an innovative area of a defence lawyer’s practice.
Date Published: 29 March 2023