Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Will some of you "advocates" please

just shut up! I am getting to the point where I want put my paws over my ears and curl up into a little ball with my eyes tightly closed so that I can ignore you.
I am sorry but I am just fed up with people who keep shouting about how badly people have been treated when it is their own stupidity, laziness, violence, illegal, risk taking acts have caused their problems.
David Hicks is back in the news. Now the UN says  his rights were violated by the Australian government. Maybe they were but people ignore the fact that he went to Afghanistan of his own volition.
Julian Assange is back in the news too.  The UN says his rights are being violated too. Maybe they are but people ignore the fact that he chose to publish the Wikileaks documents.
I had to explain to someone yesterday that I do not go into court as an "advocate". If I go into court my role is to ensure that the person I am there to help understands the proceedings and how they might affect them. I am not there to help them plead innocent or guilty or avoid justice. I am there to ensure they understand the questions being asked and, if they are being asked to respond, that others understand their responses. I am not allowed to do anything else - although I have occasionally been asked to express something that amounts to an opinion. When that happens I choose my words very carefully indeed.
I was asked if I would help someone yesterday. I was told he was "mildly intellectually retarded, illiterate, from a broken home and..." the list went on. I listened. Then I asked a couple of questions because something didn't seem quite right. How old is he? Twenty three? Right. That's not an issue in itself but it did suggest he had some experience of the world and might have some understanding of right and wrong. 
And then I asked the other question, "Has he been in trouble before?"
There was silence at the other end of the phone. Now this is a question I have a right to ask. It is not one a jury has the right to ask but I do have a right to ask because it tells me something about how much someone might know or understand.
Then the silence was broken with a sigh. 
      "He's just been released."
He has a string of offences behind him, dating back to early childhood. He knows his way around the legal system. He was trying out a new member of the legal profession, one who did not know him or his reputation. His case worker was trying the same thing, "advocating" for him. They thought it would be "better" if he went in with someone like me.
In this case the offender will be going back inside. He doesn't need me to "advocate" for him. He needs a sergeant in a boot camp in the desert. 
Between us the lawyer and I explained that his numerous court appearances suggested that he understood the process and that the lawyer could represent him without my help. His case worker can be present instead.


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