How we helped a teenager avoid jail

How we helped a teenager avoid jail

It is always a good idea to get legal advice before you go to court if you have been charged with breaking the law. 

A lawyer will help you understand your case, what the charges mean and what your options are. You can get legal advice about how you should plea and how to prepare for the hearing.

Carmel (not her real name) was a pregnant teenage girl cut off from family by her abusive boyfriend. She was ready to plead guilty to his assault.

Find out how seeing a lawyer made a difference.

Carmel's story

Carmel was a teenager when she first began her relationship with Lyall (not his real name), an imposing man who was nearly twice her age.

She moved in with him in the outer suburbs of Melbourne while staying in touch with her family in regional Victoria by mobile phone.

Her contact with others soon became an issue with Lyall, culminating in a physical skirmish in his car over the phone. It ended with Lyall pulling over and pushing Carmel out of the car.

She was picked up in tears by a passerby, her neck still red from Lyall’s hands and her face flushed from defending herself.

Dropped off at the local police station, she encountered Lyall, who was already making a statement alleging she assaulted him.

The charges 

Carmel was charged with recklessly causing injury, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

Her matter was adjourned from the Magistrates’ Court with a referral to a youth service for help with drug counselling, employment and housing.

Seeing a lawyer at court

At court our duty lawyer observed Carmel’s body language and the effect Lyall had on her when she turned up for the next mention.

As her lawyer took instructions she began to realise that she was probably the victim in this, so she asked for the recording of her police interview. 

In the recording Carmel’s voice was hesitant, saying ‘I better not say that – if I say he choked me I’ll get into trouble’. When she kept hesitating, the police interview just kept going and so there was no questioning about her situation.

The lawyer began negotiating with the prosecutor, explaining that Carmel was the victim and that the charges should be dropped.

How we supported her to change her plea

Carmel, who had left Lyall and was living with her mother, was reluctant to return to the city. She wanted the matter over with quickly and did not want to fight her case.

Her lawyer was concerned that Carmel felt she had no rights and was motivated by fear in wanting to plead guilty. She needed support to overcome her fear and realise that she was the victim.

Her lawyer also explained that a conviction like this would follow her around for life. 

Carmel was convinced not to plead guilty and, based on her lawyer’s advocacy, the prosecutor agreed to drop the charges.

Get legal advice

It’s important to remember that you do have rights and you can get legal help.

Carmel saw a duty lawyer at court. The Duty Lawyer Service is free. However duty lawyers do not represent everyone. Therefore it is always best to speak to us before going to court.

How we can help

If you are charged with an offence and there is a risk you might go to jail, get legal advice quickly.

You can call us on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8.45 am to 5.15 pm, to find out how we can help.

You may be able to see a lawyer for legal advice. For some matters we can provide you with a lawyer to help you run your case.

There are also other organisations that can help if you are going to court.

If you have been a charged with a criminal offence, we also have information about:

If you are in an abusive relationship, we also have information about how you can apply for a family violence intervention order to protect you or your children.