Justice: Court reflections
This page details John’s reflections on attending court to hear the plea and sentencing of a man who sexual abused John as a child. John has provided this account of attending court, his decision making processes and responses to what occurred in the hope it assists other men who have been sexually abused. You can also read the first part of his story to learn how he got to this point.
John very much wanted the full photo of him holding the ‘JUSTICE' placard to be published, however, due to a court suppression order, this is not possible at present.
Court Reflections – Day 1.
It's so nice to wake up smiling!
Yesterday was almost the day that wasn't! After arriving at court, most of the morning was spent with the Crown Prosecutor discussing what the Defence wanted taken out of the brief. I was OK, though not happy with what was going on, until a point came up about some wording. The words that they wanted to change were "sexual assault" to "sexual activity." That implied consent, so I absolutely refused to accept that change at all. A couple of more points were OK, and then we came to a part about the perpetrator laughing and calling me a "poofter" after assaulting me, which they wanted removed. I told the Crown Prosecutor in no uncertain terms that I wanted that to stay in, and that I had had enough of changing the brief.
During lunch, I told my wife and eldest son that I was starting to feel like I was being screwed over, and that I was going to insist that we go to trial, instead of making any further changes to the brief.
Meanwhile, the Crown Prosecutor had talked to the Defence, told them that the removal of the "poofter" statement was a "deal breaker" and that they'd be strongly advised to accept what changes we had allowed, which they accepted.
Reading my victim impact statement
I think that my refusal to accept any more changes to the brief "flicked" the Crown Prosecutor’s "switch" and he really came to life! (to be honest, I was starting to wonder just what he was being paid for!) By this time, it was quite late in the day, but he spoke to the judge and arranged for me to read my Witness Impact Statement to the court. I was led into court and asked if I wanted to make my statement from the prosecution table or the witness box. I chose to make my statement from the witness box, so I could see the perpetrator and the rest of the court.
I had deliberately kept my statement short and VERY to the point. I have seen enough sleepy-looking judges working around the courts, but this judge paid very keen attention to what I was saying. I spoke slowly and very clearly, scanning the court with my eyes, often staring straight at the perpetrator – who closed his eyes and appeared to be shuddering – and at his Defence team. The courtroom was absolutely silent as I spoke. I felt so much weight falling off my shoulders and felt so strong and empowered. After all the years of silence, and all of the struggles after breaking my silence, this truly was "my moment!"
No sentence today
When I was finished, I was stood down by the judge. He and the court staff treated me gently and with respect. The judge then started talking about bail for the perpetrator. It seemed he was going to keep him in custody for a week, as due to all the Defence’s haggling that morning we had run out of time and proceedings had to be held over till next Friday. The perpetrator’s Defence jumped up and mentioned that he has not thus far been held in custody, and has been reporting to the local Police station EVERY DAY since his arrest without once missing a day. (I was NOT aware that he had to report everyday, and I was pleased to hear this!) The Crown Prosecutor had no objection to his bail, so he was allowed to go home.
The perpetrator looked absolutely crushed as he left the courtroom – good!
The prosecutor looked very emotional and so proud of me, the Crown prosecutor seemed ecstatic about my delivery of my statement. That all felt good!
Though this has now spilled over until next Friday for sentencing, most of the "hard work" is done. Both the Prosecution and the Defence have agreed that he should receive a suspended custodial sentence next week. Mind you, it is up to the judge. The feeling is that I made such a huge impression on him that he may impose a harsher penalty.
I am happy, either way.
The benefit of support
The presence of Constable U was sorely missed during the day, but I was really glad that the Prosecutor, J was there, with me. J has been so kind, caring, honest and supportive since becoming involved in this matter. Indeed, she lent her voice to back my protestations to the Crown Prosecutor, regarding the Defence’s desired removals from the brief. J led me into court with firm but kind words of encouragement and support.
After a shakey start, I was very pleased to see the Crown Prosecutor fired up and in full flight, I was reassured and glad that he was on our side! There is NO doubt that he got me fired up, during the morning, which as it turned out, wasn’t completely a bad thing!
A HUGE day!
After getting back home, we had the whole family over for a big dinner. Being surrounded in quiet celebration with those that I love most was a wonderful way to end a HUGE day!
I don't think that it all has fully sunk in yet, that this struggle for truth, justice and validation, that I started five years ago is actually coming to a favourable ending, for me. It seems to me that a small measure of justice IS possible for a survivor of abuse, but it takes an awful lot of struggle, pain and motivation to create that small measure.
Has it been worth it? ABSOLUTELY!!!!! I feel great!
I am so grateful and overwhelmed for all the support I have received from my family, the police, the prosecutors, the court and my online friends and supporters. Believe me, it ALL helped me get through Friday!
Sentencing hearing, set down for one week later.
Court Reflections – Day 2
At present, I am feeling rather frustrated and confused with the court proceedings, particularly with the Crown Prosecutors input so far (one on each side).
I really want to do this once, cleanly, and get it right the first time. The police and the prosecutor understood that, and made sure that every "t" was crossed and every "i" dotted. I have no issue with either, but I don't think that the Crown Prosecutors "get" it.
Judge also appears frustrated
It seems to me that the Judge is confused by the lack of information regarding the earlier assaults. That the Defence don't want him to know about those offences is understandable, but without that knowledge the pattern of the perpetrator’s behaviour is obscured, hence we are now waiting for another two weeks. Time and again, the judge asked the Defence, "Give me something, so I can understand what happened!" Both Crown Prosecutors seemed to be bum-fumbling around, whilst the Defence sat there, like a stunned mullet.
I actually like the Judge, he has listened to me, he is taking this matter very seriously, and I really appreciate that. Quite rightly, he seems to feel that without all the information, he can’t make an appropriate, informed decision on sentencing, so he is taking two weeks to study up on similar cases. If he decides that the perpetrator should be in gaol for his crimes, then that is OK with me.
It messes with your head
I can't believe that I am saying this, but I am concerned about the perpetrator’s defence (this is REALLY screwing up my head!).
I don't want him to be given the opportunity to appeal on the grounds that his Defence screwed up.
There is no doubt that the negligence of our parents, particularly our father, bordered on abuse in itself. I cannot understand why the Defence have not made more of this to try and explain his behaviour and actions.
Not that ANYTHING can ever excuse the perpetrator’s vile and disgusting actions!
My resolve and commitment to seeing this all the way through is NOT compromised or weakening! I just feel unsettled with the way the Crown Prosecutors have set the course for these proceedings. As I said previously, I want to do this once, cleanly, and get it right, the first time. At present, with the “Crown” Prosecutors” input, I don't feel reassured that this is happening, or is it just that I am not familiar with court proceedings?
Still happy, just a little weary
Indeed, today's court, was rather frustrating…
After arriving at 9.30am we finally took our places in court promptly, at 2pm.
During the 9.30am-2pm interval, neither of us felt like visiting the art gallery or the museum (as was suggested by the Crown Prosecutor), so we sat around the court or the park for most of the time. The perpetrator turned up with his whole family. They also had the Salvo's and a couple of other supporters with them. My wife and I couldn't help but feel just a little intimidated, so we found a vacant room. It struck me as grimly funny, that the Salvo's offer so much support to the "bad guy."
I am still happy, just a little weary.
Return date set for two weeks time to hear reports and sentencing.
Court Reflections, Day 3 – Sentencing
Much appreciated support
I arrived at court at 1.30pm with my wife and eldest son. We were met out front by the Prosecutor, and also the NSW Police Constable who has handled the investigation. Both seemed charged with positive energy and enthusiasm, which was infectious. I was really pleased to have both of them in my corner, today!
We entered the courtroom at 2pm, and without further delay, His Honour, the Judge began his summing up of the case.
Three weeks ago, I had read my Victim Impact Statement from the Witness Stand. Surprisingly, the impact of that moment still seemed to linger in the courtroom, and seemed to set the mood and atmosphere for the proceedings. His Honour referred to my VIS often.
I have nothing but praise for His Honour. His care, concern and determination to make the appropriate and right decisions was very evident. He seemed disturbed, frustrated and troubled by this matter. His manner towards the perpetrator was extremely stern.
There is no doubt that he was taking the matter very, very seriously! As he spoke, he revealed that he felt that the perpetrator was still not telling/was denying the truth.
- He was NOT remorseful, for his actions.
- He was NOT rehabilitated.
- He did NOT understand or appreciate the full extent of the damage he has caused, not only to me, but also to my family.
- That his actions were a “double-tragedy,” in that he not only negatively affected myself and my family, but also his own family.
- The perpetrator needed to be put in a place where he could contemplate the effects of his misdeeds, and receive proper counselling/treatment.
- The psychological report supplied by the Defence was of little use or value, because the reporting psychologist only had what information the perpetrator chose to share (no police or court reports) and therefore could not prepare a proper, informed psychological report.
- His Honour was rather critical that the perpetrator chose NOT to take the Witness Stand in his own defence.
The perpetrator’s Defence had very little to say.
His Honour then instructed him to stand up (though he already should have been!) and sentenced him to one year in gaol, and after that one year of parole with set conditions.
Response to sentencing
His Honour suggested that I might not think that the perpetrator’s punishment was harsh enough. Actually, it was MORE than I was expecting; I'd had it in my head that the perpetrator would receive a “suspended” sentence, and would never see the inside of a gaol.
The perpetrator looked extremely upset with the Judge’s findings and decisions. Through-out the Judge’s summing up, there were also “flashes” of anger in his face. He belongs to one of the more “way-out” Christian organisations that seem to have little regard or respect for the law, or government, etc.
His Honour then informed the perpetrator that he had half an hour to say “goodbye” to the members of his family that were in attendance at court, before being “shipped out” to gaol. We left them to it.
I do feel sorry for his wife and children, they are more of HIS innocent victims, BUT whilst they are supportive of him, I must consider them as the enemy. I have had to tread on a lot of peoples’ feelings in my quest for justice, validation and peace of mind.
Both Police and Prosecutor were very pleased with the Judge’s conclusions and sentencing, as am I. Apparently, it is extremely hard to obtain a conviction in RECENT sexual assaults, let alone in “historical cases.” In historical cases, the chances of obtaining a conviction are no better than 1 in 3,000!
To some people, the sentence that the perpetrator received would seem inadequate. I think that survivors often attend court with unrealistic expectations of the punishment that perpetrators will receive. From the very first time I spoke to the Police I kept my expectations in check, to avoid any disappointment. I expected nothing, therefore I am very happy with the sentence.
Considering also that he has had to report to Police every day since his arrest, and has had to abide by many other bail conditions.
The impact of bringing this to court
I feel that I have achieved much by going to the Police:
- I have removed a sex offender from the streets for a year, and beyond that, he is going to have to behave himself and adhere to whatever restrictions/constraints/requirements are placed on him, as decided by the Judge.
- The perpetrator is now on the Sex Offenders Register.
- He lost his job when he was arrested. (He used to work with young mothers and their children! Now, he will never work anywhere near children again!)
- If there are any other victims of this perpetrator, hopefully they will be inspired to break their silence, and speak out.
- Personally, I feel that I have gained a measure of justice and a lot of validation.
- Though there may be an appeal, this matter is now part of Australian legal history and precedent. (I hope that this may reflect favourably on other survivors cases.)
- He is now finding out first-hand, what it is like to be alone, afraid and very vulnerable.
A lighter, brighter, more colourful life
Has it all been worth it? A most definite YES!
So much weight has fallen from my shoulders since the perpetrator’s arrest, in stages.
- Once we had carried out the “wired” confrontation.
- On hearing of his arrest.
- On the perpetrator pleading “Guilty!”
- After reading my Victim Impact Statement. (That was HUGE!)
- On him being convicted and sentenced.
At each of these stages, my load seemed lighter, while his has only got heavier and heavier.
I wasn’t kidding in my Witness Impact Statement when I said –
“The perpetrator is now being held accountable for his actions. The guilt and shame that I have carried for so long, is now with its rightful owner.”
For me, life is seemingly brighter, lighter and more colourful. I am feeling unfamiliar positive feelings. The nagging, insistent inner voice that mocked, and tormented me for so very long to “Do something about it!!!!!” is silent.
I am very happy!
John's Victim Impact Statement
My name is John ______, and I am 50 years of age.
Up to the age of 17 years, I lived and grew up in Greenacre, a suburb of the city of Bankstown.
Back in those days, Greenacre was a great place to grow up, and I should be left with many fond and happy memories, but it is just NOT so. The actions of my brother – Mr ______ – have left a long-lasting negative impact upon my whole life. Prior to the sexual assaults, his behaviour and attitude towards me was reprehensible. When Mr ______ committed the sexual assaults on me, his actions tore away my innocence, my dignity, effectively destroying my childhood and teenage years, and impacted so severely on my adulthood, that at times I have considered ending my own life.
I have been diagnosed with, and am being treated for, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, major depression, suicidal idealization. I suffer panic attacks so severe, that I become physically sick, on one occasion, being held in hospital overnight for observation.
When I first broke my silence, the first people I had to tell were my family, my wife and my 3 adult sons. That I had to cause them such pain still grieves me. Even now when it is necessary to discuss this topic, the pain and sadness within their eyes is so very hard for me to bear.
When my own son's were growing up, I was strict and hard on them, but not abusive. I was always hyper vigilant for any sign that anything "untoward" was going on between them. I often over-reacted if 2 of my sons "ganged up" and bullied the other one.
To my internal dismay, my wife and sons actually liked Mr ______, so I had to endure years of occasional socializing with him at family events. To watch him hug my wife and sons made me so angry and despairing, yet without breaking my silence, there was nothing I could do about it.
Mr ______ was very religious and often sang hymns, when he was young. Given his behaviour, I believe that Mr ______'s actions are the reason for my lifelong dislike, distrust and dismissal of all religion.
I was quite an intelligent child, but during my time at school I followed the pattern of many survivors of abuse and did nothing but cause trouble and chaos. Now and again, I cannot help but wonder what might have been if not for the horrors inflicted on me, by Mr ______.
Mr ______'s actions even influenced the design of a tattoo I have. (The Darkness Within…..)
There is no doubt at all, that Mr ______'s actions have misshaped and warped my own personality immensely. I am of an extremely suspicious, untrusting nature, and I don't relate well to people. I have often felt angry, pessimistic, sorrowful and very alone, carrying this burden of abuse. I have felt ashamed and guilty, for so very long.
Often I have disturbing "flashbacks". My depression can be triggered by simple sights, sounds, etc. For example the song "Eagle Rock" by Daddy Cool can plunge me into the depths of despair (along with many other songs that Mr ______ used to play).
For another example, Mr ______ used to always call me "CAKE", who was a homosexual cartoon character in a pornographic magazine that Mr ______ apparently used to buy and read. Even now, the word "CAKE" makes me shudder and can trigger such dreadful, painful memories and emotions.
To seek justice and validation, I have had to try and become cold and insensitive, as at times I have had to harden my heart and trample the feelings of others, to get to the truth. I no longer get on well with other members of my birth family.
Please take my word for it, contacting the police to make such a complaint about one's own sibling is no easy matter. This was only carried out after much agonising contemplation and after every other avenue to ease my torment was explored and exhausted.
Mr ______ is now being held accountable for his actions. The guilt and shame that I have carried for so long, is now with its rightful owner.
After today, I intend to try and get on with my life and do all that I can to forget about Mr ______ completely, if possible.
John – 29th April, 2012
Looking Back and Forth
It is now March 2013, several months on from the final day of court. I am feeling happy, relaxed and I am moving on with my life.
My family and friends who have supported me throughout are very happy and pleased for me, and what I have achieved. Without Constable BU and the Prosecutor J, I doubt that we would have managed such a good result. Both were so dedicated, enthusiastic and motivated throughout the investigation/prosecution. I still hear from both, now and again.
I will never, ever forget either of them!
There are members of my birth family that I no longer communicate with, That is my choice, and causes me no concern.
The abuser is in gaol.
I have no regrets that I chose to follow this course of action that has led me to justice, validation, peace of mind, and a much happier life, in so many ways! There is NO survivor guilt here!
For me, moving on includes trying to help other survivors of childhood abuse find their way through the darkness, be it through my writing, poetry, art – online or otherwise. I want other survivors to know that there IS a way through the darkness!
After court, I was interviewed by AH from the Sydney Morning Herald. The story ran the following Monday. It was also picked up by NINEMSN.
My reflections on the court experience/process have been published online at Living Well – Australia. Reaction to my writings has been positive, so far.
A couple of months after court, I was interviewed by ABC Radio National. The interview was broadcast recently on breakfast radio, and caused quite a stir. JC rang me and told me that he had never seen such a reaction to a story!
I have also recently participated in a study on male survivors of abuse, being undertaken by a Queensland university.
Last week, I did another newspaper interview.
It feels great to know that I AM reaching people!
As far as the immediate future goes, I have made a start on my intended book, and I am currently looking for a suitable site online to start my own “survivor” page.
I still enjoy skydiving, aerobatic flight, etc, and I will continue to follow my passion, for all things "airborne."
My other past times include reading, my poetry/writing, my art, military history, video creation/editing, and playing bass guitar – badly. Over the past few years, with the exception of my poetry, I have not had the time, the patience, or the inclination to follow these interests. Now that all proceedings are over, I am finding renewed interest and appreciation for these past times.
My life feels so bright, and full of promise. I am now living a quiet, happy life with my loved ones, what else does anyone really need?