Monday, February 19, 2007

False Domestic Violence Order

Playing the DVO card
Having failed to get a DVO against me when my ex-partner attacked me the first time round, she succeeded in getting a DVO against me the second time, strategically just two weeks before the Final Hearing.

The incident occurred on Christmas Eve 2004 (my son was now 3yrs old). I had care of my son on Christmas Eve and I was scheduled to return my son to his mother at 6.30pm. In the afternoon I attended a Christmas party with my son (the first Christmas or New Year celebration with him since the separation in 2002). It was a big party and my son was having a lot of fun with his/our friends (big and small). There was lots of gourmet food, a dad dressed as Santa, a Christmas tree and lots of presents to open. At 8.15pm my ex-partner rang telling me I was late and demanded I return our son immediately. I told her I would be there in half an hour (ie 8.45pm), given that I would have to locate my son in the party, say goodbye to people and drive over there. At 8.30pm my ex-partner appeared, grabbed my son and began walking away. My first reaction was to walk the other way, but then I felt the need to say goodbye to my son, particularly as I was going away for two weeks.

I caught up with her and stood in front of her saying I wanted to hug my son goodbye. She attempted to go around me. I put my arms around my son to give him a hug. My ex-partner screamed for her boyfriend (6’ 3” – same height as the solicitor !) who came and grabbed me by the shirt ripping the sleeve. They walked toward the gate and I walked with them trying to talk to my son. The boyfriend said “You had better not hit me or I will take you to court.” I wasn’t threatening him in any way and thought his comment odd. I said “I am not going to hit you Gary though nothing would give me greater pleasure.” At that moment, (away from the party) he gave me a clip on the head (open palm). Surprised I said “you hit me you bastard !”. I went to give him a similar (open palm) clip on the head. He blocked it and punched me in the mouth. I retreated to the house and saw in the mirror that I had a bleeding lip.

I went away for two weeks. When I returned I was served with a summons to appear in court on a charge of Domestic Violence. No police officer had asked me what had happened. The matter had not been investigated before charges were laid. I understand this is standard practice.

I visited the Cairns Regional Domestic Violence Centre where Amanda, the executive officer there, having heard my account of the incident, advised me to “Accept the charges without admission of guilt”. She added “The charges have been brought by the Queensland Police. No one has ever won when the charges have been brought by the police.”

I was told by Amanda and others – “Don’t worry about DVO charges. They are very common and not necessarily regarded as serious.” But they should be regarded as serious shouldn’t they ? Was this just another ploy to get me to submit to and streamline a DVO production line prone to costly congestion ?

Another women’s activist argued “well [the DVO charges] stopped the violence didn’t they ?” This logic is disconcerting. If the ends justifies the means and who actually perpetrated the violence, or whether there was in fact any violence, doesn’t really matter, why not lay the DVO charges on just the women instead of just the men ? – or at least both parties…

Some weeks later I was in the court waiting room with four other men and a woman. The woman was the last to arrive. An advisor, presumably from a women’s support organisation, approached the woman and asked if she required assistance, which she did and they disappeared into another room. In the courtroom, my ex-partner also had an advisor. No such services were available to me or any of the other men.

I accepted the charges without admission of guilt. On hindsight I thoroughly regret this decision. I feel I was intimidated into doing so. I wrote the judge an eight page letter, to which she responded that I needed to approach my local MP as there was nothing she could do [about distinguishing false DVOs from legitimate ones].

How is it that I was charged with Domestic Violence because I was two hours late returning my son from a Christmas Eve party ? I had not hit anyone, I had not even threatened anyone or used abusive language (other than the mild instances described above) – yet I was hit and had my shirt ripped ? How is it that charges can be laid without even interviewing the accused beforehand ?

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