Editor’s note: The Lovefraud reader who writes as “Aussiegirl” will be in court on December 6, 2010, seeking an extension of the Violence Restraining Order that she has against her ex-husband. She was already in court On October 18, 2010, because her ex had violated the existing order. The magistrate didn’t take Aussiegirl seriously, and she’s lodged the following complaint against him. Aussiegirl asks for your moral support during her next court date.
I write in relation to the conduct of a Magistrate who tried my ex-husband for a breach to a Violence Restraining Order (VRO) at the **** Courthouse on Monday 18th October this year. My complaint is not about the judicial decision reached ….The concerns I have are in relation to the general conduct of the trial by Magistrate *****, his rude treatment of me (as a police witness and as a repeat victim of the accused) …. the fact that Magistrate ***** all but apologised to the accused for having to convict him “on a point of law” – and the dismissive and demeaning way that he spoke publicly about my Victim Impact Statement (VIS).
My name is *** and I am 44 years old. I lived with the accused (B*********), between 2000 – 2007. The marriage ended in 2007 and I divorced him in 2009.
At different times throughout the relationship, I held fears for the mental state of the accused. I initially put his aggressive outbursts and disturbing behaviours down to depression, but by the time we parted company, both his doctors and I were of the opinion that something far more serious was amiss. He had become increasingly more violent and was continually clashing with members of …. the public. In 2006, five applications to take out restraining orders against him were made by community members of the small town we lived in. He had been referred …. to a psychologist for counselling and assessment after his behaviour became more erratic than usual and after several alarming public episodes of mania. That treatment had failed (he refused to participate in any meaningful way) and in …early 2007, various diagnoses – including Bipolar Disorder and several Personality Disorders – were being investigated.
In August 2007, four police officers forcibly removed the accused from the family home when he became uncontrollably enraged…..stating that he was going to “go through the house and smash everything”. He left the house screaming abuse and swearing in front of his then thirteen-year-old son. The police issued a Police Order which he began to breach almost immediately by sending a stream of offensive text messages to me that continued throughout that evening and until after 2:00am the following day. He had previously been issued with another Police Order several months prior to this, when the police had needed to be called after he had become violent toward me and had made threats to my safety. …..It was necessary at that time for me to take out a VRO against the accused. Within one week of its issue, he had twice breached the order by coming back to the house.
By September 2007, the accused was exhibiting increasing paranoia, stating that his telephone was “tapped” and that people were following him. He was referred …to a psychiatrist …. Around that time, he made accusations against several police officers, stating that they were “colluding” with me ….“setting him up”. His complaints to officials were found to have no substance. He continued to insist that the police were “watching him” and that they had “tapped his telephones”.
Many of these facts were given in evidence at a September 2008 hearing into breaches of the VRO by the accused…..(he) openly admitted …. to having sent all of the text messages referred to in my evidence, including those where he had clearly been delusional while writing/sending them.… found guilty of ….. emotionally abusive, offensive and threatening text messages ….
The VRO has been in force ever since being taken out in August 2007.
During 2008, 2009 and 2010, there have again been instances where the accused has breached the VRO. The police have not laid charges over any of these, as I have been unable to provide them with sufficient evidence ….unless they are reasonably sure they will get a conviction, they will not even charge him. …I have seen him in his vehicle in my street, outside of my house, outside of where I work and where I have been shopping. As he lives almost forty kilometres away …. my hometown …. is out of his way – he has to have come here on purpose….. he lies, saying that he wasn’t here. He has come to my home. …… repeatedly attempted to contact me through mutual acquaintances….. infiltrated my church group, announced his intentions to attend ….at the same facility I was attending….refused to move on when requested to do so by church elders …..As a result of this, I was forced to discontinue attending my church services two years ago and have not been able to return … I consequently lost an entire …. support network at a very distressing period in my life.
Although once we had separated, our agreement (was) that I would stay living in our house, I was unable to do so because he kept coming to the house and letting himself in… (even after) the VRO was taken out….he would ….. park his car …. opposite the house and send me text messages from there. In the end, I fled the house and started a new life for myself in a different town ….somewhere that he had no business being. But still he came.
The breach of December 2009 which was being tried on 18 October, was the first solid evidence that the police were able to charge him with – after two years of elusive behaviour on his part that could not be pinned down. He came to my home while I was at work and loaded my verandah up ….. I arrived home at 10.30pm …. could not access my front door …. I was terrified when I realised that the stuff was from him… worried that he was hiding somewhere, to watch my reaction – or worse. …None of the things he dumped at my house belonged to me; most of it had never been mine, nor had I ever expressed any desire to acquire or retain it ….. I had not initiated any contact with him for two years….. Some of the items were just plain abnormal and disturbing.
He had dug up the plants that were growing over the graves of my deceased pets at the ****** house….I paid for and planted every single plant in (that) garden…yet he chose to dig up just those …. significant – plants. He had pulled out the picture hooks from the walls …. where my pictures had used to hang and placed them in a plastic bag – used, damaged beyond re-use and with the plaster from the walls of that house still stuck to them. He dumped a rocking chair and a cabinet … (both had been …. gifts to him) – yet he kept the refrigerator and the clothes dryer that I had owned before he ever moved in with me. He left me a tie of his which he had worn on our first date ….. he had owned it before we met….. He removed the ice-cube trays that I had once owned from the refrigerator and dumped them, yet kept the refrigerator which had also been my property…. I was not allowed by Magistrate ***** to give all of my evidence, but was cut off by him after having identified from photographs handed to me by the police prosecutor only three items out of a possible twenty-six items (or groups of items). Had I been permitted to speak about all of the items….explain their significance … it would have been clear … that the accused was not simply “returning things”, as he claimed in his defence.
…. (He) was in no doubt that …. I did not ever want to see or hear from him for the rest of my life….he could hardly have reasoned away the items he left for me. He did not “return all of the gifts I had ever given him”, but picked and chose which ones. He did not “return all of the furniture that we had jointly owned”, but again, picked and chose. He did not “return items I had owned before he met me”, but picked and chose. ….Had Magistrate ***** been …. prepared to listen to my side as he was to listen to the accused’s excuses and “reasons”, he could not have helped but see that there was a malicious motivation behind the dumping of the items on my front porch….
As for my VIS, I had not prior to arriving at the court that morning, been aware that I was able to give one. I had been concerned that if a Magistrate presided that day who had no knowledge of the history behind the case, then the complaint could be made to appear….in the capably manipulative hands of the accused…. somewhat trivial in nature. The police had told me …. the only way that any relevant history could come out was if the Magistrate allowed it while I was giving my evidence. When I arrived at the court, I was met by … an Advocate… and a Counsellor from the Victim Support Service. I was not expecting to be assisted by anyone, so I felt reassured by their presence.
I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ….the thought of seeing or hearing the accused makes me physically ill; I shake and sweat; at times I vomit and/or pass out; and I hyperventilate. It takes every bit of strength I have to face him in court, but I know that I can’t allow him to keep breaching the VRO …. otherwise his harassment of me will never stop and he will never leave me alone. My only hope is that the justice system will eventually catch up with him and punish him sufficiently to convince him to stop.
When the …. Counsellor asked about my Victim Impact Statement (VIS), I told her I did not have one …. She said that she would type one up for me right away. She asked a series of questions which I answered and she then recorded as my VIS. A copy was given to the Magistrate. Although recounting the effect that the past three year’s of being harassed and stalked by the accused has had on my life was deeply distressing to me, I was also relieved that at least the Magistrate would now get to see that the case was not as obvious, trivial or straight-forward as I knew the accused would attempt to portray it. I went into court …. relieved that the accused might not get away with his game-playing.
…. I was surprised that the accused was permitted to question me at all, given the guidelines contained in the …. Judicial Officers’ Bench book “Equality before the law” and the provisions of The Evidence Act … In the past, I have been allowed to give evidence via a video-link from another courthouse….. I would have expected some consideration to have been given to my state on the day of the trial. It was my own decision to attend in person rather than request another video-link…. I believed that I needed to face the accused in order to fully recover from my entrenched fear of him, but the manner in which Magistrate ***** entertained the accused, by allowing him to grandstand, interrupt and assassinate my character proved too much ….
The first blow was not being permitted to complete my evidence…..
Magistrate *****’s tolerance of the accused’s inappropriate behaviour and the fact that he appeared in many instances to be agreeing with ….and adding more and more weight to his evidence as the hearing went on, became too much for me and I began to weep in the back of the courtroom. When Magistrate ***** announced that he had no choice but to convict the accused on a point of law, he couched his statements in terms that bordered on apologising to the accused. The final straw was when Magistrate ***** began to read my VIS, which I had been encouraged by the (court) Counsellor to supply to him. As he began to read it (his) facial expression noticeably altered to convey surprise and disbelief. He raised his eyebrows and shook his head, …. then proceeded to comment publicly on the apparently extraordinary nature of my statement, stating that it was the “kind of statement (he) would expect to read from someone who has had a very serious crime committed against them, not someone who has only had a pile of furniture delivered to her home…” that he was not going to read or consider my VIS, because it bore no relevance to the matter at hand. … the accused was permitted …. to state publicly, triumphantly and very loudly to the courtroom, “That’s what I keep saying – she’s a drama queen!” …. I was publicly humiliated, and felt that I had been offered no protection at all by the law, despite the fact that the accused was found guilty. The Magistrate was incredibly rude and insensitive to my situation, dismissive of my fear of the accused …. I felt violated all over again….His demeanour from beginning to end gave the impression that he was cheering on the accused…. against the “bad police” and the “bad ex-wife”.
In conclusion, I want you to know that I came home from court that day in a state of shock and have suffered periodically from panic attacks ever since.
These panic attacks were a symptom of my PTSD that I had thought I had overcome…. prior to (that) court hearing. I have not experienced anything like it in the recent, numerous dealings between the accused and I ….in the Family Court…. I hold concerns that if a severely depressed person…..or someone fearful for their safety who did not have the abundance of support that I had on that day, were to encounter the level of rudeness, partiality and insensitivity that I did from Magistrate *****, there could well be tragic consequences ….
The accused is a man who allegedly broke the jaw of the wife previous to me, by punching her in the face during one of many domestic abuses that to this day she is afraid to go to police about…. who ….in 2004, slammed his car door on me and dragged me bodily along the ground behind his vehicle … as he drove off ….. It took me until 2007 to have the courage to call on the police for help….He is a man who has threatened …. the lives of both his previous ex-wife and me. That he has never been convicted for any of those crimes remains our own responsibility; and we deeply regret being held back by fear …. and not reporting him to police when we should have done. That I have just succeeded in having him convicted for something that appears – on the surface – to be relatively innocuous – is a cause for hope for us both….We both firmly believe that he would kill us if he had the chance….He continues to harass us both; she hasn’t been married to him for the past ten years, but …. he still pays out on her. I haven’t been with him for three years…. no reason to ever have contact ….but …. he is still paying out on me.
The reaction of the police when we all walked out of the court room that day? ….. “We have to see this as a win L****. We are one step closer to having him dealt with properly.” I replied, “And when will that be? When you find my body, or when you are sifting through what’s left of my house after he burns it down?” These are my genuine fears.
Although the trial resulted in a conviction, we are due back in the same court on 6 December, where my application to extend the VRO will be heard. ….My greatest fear now is that Magistrate ***** will …. preside over the VRO application hearing, in which case I do not believe that I will be granted either the VRO ….or the justice I deserve as a victim of …. long-term and ongoing abuses. I am appealing to your office in the hope that I will receive a fair hearing – something I do not believe that I had on 18 October.
I am writing this primarily because of my own outrage, but also in the hope that my complaint might prevent some other innocent person from having to suffer the same treatment by this Magistrate…..I have the utmost regard for the law and for the struggles faced by our judicial system and its officers. I appreciate that the Police, as well Magistrates and Courts are more often than not, overloaded and under-resourced. I would not under any circumstances bring a petty matter to the attention of either the Police or the Courts. I have worked hard in honest occupations and have been a law-abiding citizen my whole life; all I ask in return is for proper treatment, due justice and appropriate protection when I require it.