THE man accused of more than 6000 intervention order breaches can’t believe he’s in Dandenong Magistrates Court.
He’s already told the police that the charges are “bulls***”.
As he waits, the strongly-built businessman mulls over how he and his five employees are losing a day of work. He fumes with his arms crossed as he tells the magistrate he’ll plead guilty just so he can bring the ordeal to an end.
In his impatience, he’s shoved aside a Victoria Legal Aid lawyer in mid-sentence as she’s addressed the judge on his behalf.
He makes light of the nearly 6500 calls and texts to his ex-partner in two months – all in breach of an intervention order. There was never any violence or threats, the man says. The calls and texts were usually instigated by the ex, who wanted to remove the intervention order anyway.
“It’s usually about money,” he says. “Basically, someone doesn’t get their own way so this is a way of getting at me.”
Magistrates often try to recalibrate the accused’s victim-blaming attitude. Today, the judge told the man: “A lot of people don’t agree with the law. That’s why they go to jail.
“I have to say you’re on the footstep of jail.”
The magistrate said it was irrelevant whether an estimated 4000 of the calls and messages were instigated by the victim.
“There’s an obligation on you. If you breach that, there’s consequences.
“If there’s not (consequences), then the whole thing is meaningless.”
Men in denial are commonplace in family violence cases at the court. They are led from the police cells to the dock often in shock. Often they have been arrested the night before, and never previously been taken into custody.
It’s part of the police’s stated pro-arrest and pro-remand policy against such offenders, and the court’s determination to fast-track these cases.
Another incredulous accused man denies charges of choking his ex by the throat despite an observable red swelling being found on her neck.
He had told police: “F***. I’m not getting charged with that s***.”
The man didn’t initially appear at court because he was more worried about losing his job. When he did appear, the magistrate offered him a community-corrections order for a guilty plea. But the accused declined and decided to contest the charges.
“So does he prefer to go to jail?” a disbelieving judge said. “You’d be looking at a term of imprisonment for strangulation. It’s taken seriously because of the potential for homicide.
“I’m not asking for you take unpaid community work but to engage with a men’s behaviour program.”
After a talk with his lawyer, the accused asked for some more time to consider his options.
Sometimes the men in the dock seem so small and meek. Their silence is in such contrast to the screaming threats to kill their partner, and the blows they inflict within the sanctum of the family home.
Sometimes their victims fall silent, particularly when the perpetrator is a husband who, if convicted, risks having their bridging visa revoked and being returned to their homeland.
In that situation, the victims often cave to the pressure from family and friends to back off.
On other occasions, victims refuse to shirk the issue.
Recently a teenager, on the day before her VCE English exam, testified on video-link against her father.
She spoke of her dad being in “one of those moods”, of him trying to hug and kiss his ex-partner and wanting to become a family again. The usual stuff, she wearily called it.
“You get used to his behaviour.”
She described her dad following them as they drove away, her sister crying due to the situation, him following her mum in the house, the slamming of doors, banging and yelling.
She stayed in the car, holding down the door lock to stop her father coming in.
“I keep sticking up for mum and he told me I was a disgrace to him.”
When her grandmother called her phone, the teen was in tears, worried and scared.
The daughter said her relationship with Dad was confusing. “I just avoid him because I know he gets angry very easily.
“He gets in arguments over silly things all the time.”
As she testified, her father sat hunched over in the courtroom with tears welling in his eyes.
Over the video link, her father is invisible to her – just as he is when he is outside the court.
First version published in Dandenong Journal, October 2015