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Our work in action

We represent clients charged with criminal offences in Courts across NSW

Lawyer and colleaguesPeople smuggling matters

Legal Aid NSW is representing alleged people smugglers after granting aid in 105 matters. Many are being acquitted in NSW after a year in immigration detention and on remand.

One of our clients Maynanse is from an impoverished community in a remote part of the Indonesian archipelago, surviving on subsistence farming and fishing. He was recruited by agents of people smuggling networks who come to the bigger villages offering work on fishing boats for large sums of money.  The captain stopped the boat out at sea so people could board, then told Maynanse the job had changed and he now had to take the boat to Christmas Island, which Maynanse believed to be an Indonesian island.

The captain disembarked and six hours later called Maynanse instructing him to follow the GPS coordinates which would in fact take the boat to Australia. Maynanse was terrified and outnumbered by passengers who did not want to turn back. He felt he had no choice but to continue the journey.

At trial, Maynanse argued that the phone call at sea amounted to a ‘sudden or extraordinary emergency’, and that committing the offence was the only reasonable choice he had. The jury accepted Maynanse’s defence, and he was acquitted after a lengthy trial.

Lawyer and colleaguesJury returns not guilty verdict

Our criminal law advocates prepare cases and appear in trials and sentence matters in the District Court.

One of our advocates assisted a man who was granted legal aid so that he could defend a charge of Break, Enter and Steal.

The Crown case consisted of an eye witness and a disputed confession. Our client said he had not been there and disputed the alleged confession.

Our client came from an extremely disadvantaged background and was unable to read and write. He had left school at a very young age. He had no idea about his basic legal rights and found the process overwhelming.

Conducted in front of a judge and jury, the trial involved the law regarding identification evidence, alibis and the rules about confessions to the police.

Senior lawyer Marvia Sorensen advocates that her client is an eligible and appropriate participant for the Drug Court Program at the new Hunter Drug CourtRoad to recovery at the Drug Court

We take part in a therapeutic program at the NSW Drug Courts in Parramatta and Toronto, helping to rehabilitate people with drug addictions caught up in the criminal justice system. The program promotes a humane and practical response to offenders with alcohol and drug problems, using the  courts to reduce the negative effects of drugs and alcohol on individuals and society. The role of Legal Aid NSW is to advocate that our clients are eligible and appropriate participants for this program. Legal Aid NSW continues to provide legal advice and advocacy for the duration of the program.

Participants enjoy a high success rate and many are able to stop offending and regain control of their future. Two participants had an extensive history of drug taking and offending with long periods of imprisonment in the past. The criminal matters that were referred to the Drug Court were dishonesty  matters (committed together) and they were facing four years of gaol between them. Both graduated from the Drug Court and are raising a family and have steady jobs.

Children’s lawyers uphold the rights of young people

Our children’s lawyers advise and represent young people under 18 in the Children’s Court.

Children’s lawyer Julianne Elliott talks to young people at the Children’s Court, Parramatta Justice PrecinctSuccessful appeal for a young man

The police were called to investigate a brawl. They arrested our client, a young man talking to some friends outside a car. The car then left. When the young man ran away from the car, the police pursued and arrested him.

Our children’s lawyer argued that the charges be withdrawn as the arrest was unlawful. The Magistrate ruled that running away from police does not mean people have committed an offence, and that therefore the arrest was unlawful.

Helping parents with child support

Our lawyers assist both carer and paying parents in child support matters.

Child support for a client with a daughter who has a disability

Our client was the sole carer of a 12-year-old girl with multiple physical and intellectual disabilities including cerebral palsy. The daughter uses a wheel chair full time and a communication board to speak.

Our client has the dual burden of the physical challenges of caring for her daughter in addition to the communication and learning difficulties associated with her intellectual disability. This caring role will continue for the foreseeable future.

Our client's former husband had not been making regular financial contributions to his daughter, despite a capacity to do so.

We took action to ask the Court to reassess the father's capacity to support his daughter. The needs of the girl and the capacity of her father were recognised by the Court and our client received a settlement cheque for lump sum child support.

When family breakdown ends up in court

Our family lawyers deal with matters like separation, divorce and what happens to children after a divorce.

Success despite time lapse

We made a successful application to the Full Court of the Family Court to start a property and spousal maintenance case that was 13 years out of time.

Our client and her husband had divorced after 20 years of marriage. They had three teenage children. At the time of their divorce the wife was unwell, and they had no major assets. She moved out and continued to struggle with health problems.

Six years later the husband won a very large amount of money and bought a unit for her to live in. Eight years later he told her to leave and threatened to take her to court.

The future looked bleak for our client who could not afford a lawyer and faced losing her home. However, we presented strong evidence showing hardship and reasons for the delay.

The case was successful and our client now has the chance to make a claim and keep her home.

Helping people with money problems

Our lawyers help people facing financial hardship, including vulnerable people who have been exploited by loan companies or people in trouble with their mortgage repayments.

Saving the family home

Mr and Mrs B and their son’s (the Bs) home was subject to a mortgage of $343,000. That loan was a long term home loan. They were in trouble with their repayments and applied for a $30,000 loan through a broker. They were desperate to re-finance and not lose their home so agreed to sign inaccurate  declarations stating that the loans were for business or investment purposes. These declarations if effective, mean that the Consumer Credit (NSW) Code (the Code) does not apply, which contains important protections for consumers. The loans were short term and imposed extremely high fees and charges. 

The Bs were soon in default and forced to sell their home. Legal Aid NSW commenced proceedings arguing that the business purpose declarations were ineffective. This case dealt with important public interest issues in relation to validity of business purpose declarations especially where  it is clear such loans are for personal use. This decision opened the way for a significant number of borrowers in similar circumstances to seek redress.

From the mortgage belt – a family keeps its home

We acted for a woman with four children in mortgage repossession proceedings.

Our client’s husband made an investment in some property interstate using equity taken from the family home.

The company to which the investment monies were given and other associated companies went into liquidation.

The husband had received some investment advice from well-known financial advisers who were associated with loan brokers.

We sued four cross-defendants. There were also parallel proceedings against one of the defendants by way of a class action in the Federal Court. The case went to mediation and our client agreed to a deal that she and her husband could finance.

Settlement was difficult and a dispute arose over the interpretation of the settlement deed, which then had to be resolved in court before refinance by our client could proceed. This also allowed further time for arranging a refinance of the remaining agreed debt by our client.

Our client’s husband made several loan applications for refinance which were refused thus prejudicing any new application.

The refinance finally took place and proceedings against our client were discontinued.

Our client, her husband and four children were able to stay in the family home with a small mortgage instead of facing a claim for four times the amount from the lender.

Legal Aid NSW and criminal appeals

A person’s right to appeal their conviction for a criminal offence, or the sentence they were given, is an important part of our criminal justice system. Read more about Legal Aid NSW and criminal appeals.

Client Service Charter

Our Charter sets out the service commitments that clients can expect from us, and explains how clients can help us continue to meet their expectations. We meet these commitments by listening to feedback, responding to complaints and reviewing our performance. We use client surveys  and consult directly with clients and partner agencies. We continuously measure our performance and report on it in our annual report.