Withdrawing a Charge of Contravene Personal Safety Notice

This is a case study on withdrawing a charge of Contravene Personal Safety Notice.

There was an interim Personal Safety Intervention Order (PSIO) taken out against our client by his neighbour who lived down the hall from the client. Our client has serious and complicated mental health problems. He regularly has “episodes” of paranoia and what might be described as a mild psychosis. These episodes terrify him, and compel him to self-harm and think of suicidal thoughts. When he has these episodes, he or his mother call the police or the ambulance to do a welfare check on him and to take him to hospital if need be.
On the evening in question, he was having a severe episode, involving paranoia and psychosis. He called 000 to request a welfare check by the police or ambulance and some assistance. However due to his confused mental state, he was not able to articulate himself properly and was difficult to communicate with. When the police arrived, he was still incoherent but attempted to engage with the officers.

The officers became impatient with him. Then they noticed the neighbour (the protected person) standing in the hallway observing. She had heard the client screaming in his apartment earlier that evening and was curious about the police intervention. Unbeknownst to the police, she was recording the entire interaction between the client and the police on her mobile phone. The police left the client and came over and spoke to her. That is when they found out about the PSIO.

The client continued to attempt to engage the attention of the police, but instead they are caught on camera saying “I don’t think he’s done anything wrong, but trust me, I’d love to arrest him”, laughing, and then discussing amongst themselves ways he could potentially breach the order.

Finally the police went into the apartment of the protected person to discuss the order. During that time, the client approached the front door of the neighbour’s apartment to get the police attention as he was afraid to be in his own apartment alone. He called out to the police and knocked on the door asking to talk. The police opened the door and arrested him for breaching the order.

The police then took the client to the police station where they kept him in cells for a number of hours. They interviewed him at 4 AM, and then despite his reports of hallucinations, his evident inability to recall the events of the evening, and his fear of self-harm, they charged him and released him without taking him to the hospital or presenting him to a doctor for assessment.
Isabelle Skaburskis represented the client at the Moorabbin Justice Centre. She eventually succeeded in withdrawing the Contravene Personal Safety Notice charge.

In preparation for this matter, we obtained the recording of the 000 call, the video evidence of the neighbour of the interaction with the police, and the video recording of the interview. We also obtained medical records and previous psychiatric reports for the client and commissioned a new one. We were prepared to run a defence of mental impairment if need be.

However our first goal was withdrawing the Contravene Personal Safety Notice charge. It must be noted that the client was also on a Community Corrections Order at the time, and a charge for breach could have resulted in a term of imprisonment, as well as a further charge for breach of CCO. A defence of mental impairment was risky, partly as a result of the complexity and nuance of this client’s various mental and physical illnesses.

A further challenge was that the main string to our bow was the police misconduct. However, to get the charge withdrawn, we would need the consent of the police prosecutor and probably the informant, and they may become defensive at the material.

On the day in court, the matter was case conferenced in a manner that addressed the sensitivity of the subject matter. The psychiatric report was given to the prosecutor, as well as excerpts from the video footage that demonstrated the confused state of mind of the accused, and the poor conduct and abuse by the police – including verbal and physical assaults upon the client.
The prosecutor was deeply uncomfortable with the facts of the case, and withdrew the Contravene Personal Safety Notice charge unilaterally on public interest grounds, without consulting the informant. She understood how traumatising this event would have been to the client and said she would be happy to proceed in the absence of the client in court. She also said that she would be referring the matter to internal investigation.

Isabelle Skaburskisisabelle-skaburskis-profile

Isabelle is experienced in both criminal law and international human rights law. She specialises in cases with an international dimension including terrorism and human trafficking.

As an advocate against systemic injustices, Isabelle is particularly passionate about the rights of persons in detention and in protecting human rights as a whole.

Isabelle is based at our Melbourne office and is also the current Secretary of the International Commission of Jurists (Victoria). View Isabelle Skaburskis’ profile.

DISCLAIMER: This is a real case study of an actual case from our files. Details pertaining to the client have been changed to protect their privacy. The sentence imposed and the charge have not been altered. These case studies are published to demonstrate real outcomes and give an indication of possible tariffs in Court. We do not guarantee a similar case on these charges will get the same result. Please note that we post results at our discretion, therefore while many case studies are average results, others are notable for their exceptional outcomes. PUBLISHED 01/08/2019