In Queensland, if you are charged with an assault charge, it is quite common for your lawyer to try and negotiate that charge with the Police Prosecution Unit or the Department of Public Prosecutions (“DPP”) to try and get a better outcome for you. This process is known as case conferencing. The case conferencing process is designed to try and streamline the facts the Court will get, or in some cases for the Prosecutor to decide whether or not the charge should proceed at all or at least in its current form. Because we have carried out so many assault charges, we are often asked what type of case conferencing can occur and this article is designed to try and summarize some of the case conferencing successes that we have had with assault charges.
Example 1 – AOBH Charge reduced to common assault
We recently acted for someone who had been charged with assault occasioning bodily harm. What had occurred is our client was extremely intoxicated and after exiting a nightclub was playing around and acting essentially in a foolish but not aggressive way. He has then collided with someone who had fallen down and badly injured themselves. The Police decided that our client should be charged with assault occasioning bodily harm. However, after case conferencing and after presenting to the Prosecutor statements from some of the witnesses, and pointing out some of the holes in the statements the Police obtained, we were able to have our client's charges dropped to common assault, which he pled guilty to. We were then able to get him simply a fine, a small amount of compensation to the victim and no conviction was recorded.
Example 2 – AOBH charge withdrawn
Another example of case conferencing on an assault charge is where our client was at a party. A particular person had been saying racial things to him during the night. All the people present were drunk and at some point our client has punched the victim who has lost most of his teeth. In that case, we were able to convince the Prosecutor that if they took the matter to Court they would lose as we had the defense of provocation. We were able to have them completely withdraw the charge and the client did not have to face a trial and no penalty was imposed.
Example 3 – Client found not guilty
In this example our client was charged as being a co-accused to an assault. He had filmed the assault taking place but he himself did not assault the victim. His friend who had assaulted the victim was sentenced to a term of imprisonment and that was what they sought for our client. We case conferenced the matter, however, no resolution could be found. It then went to trial, and we successfully argued that our client could not be a co-accused as he provided no encouragement to his friend to assault the victim, he merely filmed it. In that case after the trial ended and our client was found not guilty, the case conferencing we had with the Police Prosecutor was given to the Court and our client was awarded his legal costs to be paid by the Prosecutor.
Example 4 – Assault charge withdrawn
A further example is our client and his partner were at a party. Our client had gone to the toilet and during that time his partner had been confronted by another patron. Our client believed he acted in self-defense in hitting this other patron. He was charged with assault occasioning bodily harm but after case conferencing we were able to get the Police to completely drop the charges and our client faced no penalty.
Example 5 – Assault charge downgraded
Our client was charged with a sexual assault where he was accused of grabbing a person in an inappropriate way. Case conferencing occurred, but did not result in the matter being changed and the matter went to a trial. Because sexual assault is a serious charge the matter went to the District Court before a jury. The jury was sworn in but before the trial started properly, we were able to case conference with the Prosecutor who then reduced the charge down to common assault. Our client received only a good behavior bond, and no conviction was recorded. It was disappointing that the Prosecutor did not drop the charge earlier. However, the client was very happy that he did not have to face a jury trial in regards to a sexual assault charge.
Example 6 – Grievous Bodily Harm Assault charge withdrawn
The client was charged with assault occasioning grievous bodily harm. This is a very serious charge and almost always results in a term of imprisonment that a person is required to serve in prison. However after reading the statements of the victim and of the different people who were there, we were able to point out serious inconsistencies in those statements and point out to the Prosecutor that if the matter goes to trial then it is likely those inconsistencies would result in our client being found not guilty as he could not be found to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In that case, the charges were completely withdrawn by the Prosecutors, and our client did not have to spend any time in prison.
Example 7 - Grievous Bodily Harm Assault charge withdrawn
It is often common for CCTV footage to be available, especially if the alleged assault occurs in a night spot or a popular tourist center. In one particular case, we had a person charged with assault occasioning grievous bodily harm for allegedly breaking a glass in a person's face. Everybody there at the night spot was very intoxicated and no reliable statements could be obtained. There was however CCTV footage. However, that footage was so bad that we were able to point out to the Prosecutor that no jury would be able to be convinced that it was our client shown to be on the CCTV footage, actually committing the offence. They agreed, and the charge was withdrawn.
Example 8 – Facts of a AOBH charge changed
Another example of CCTV footage was in some ways the complete opposite of the last example, in that the CCTV footage was in ultra HD and had sound. In this example, our client did hit somebody and while he was on the ground, our client had attempted to kick the person. However, we said that he missed the person's head and that he should only be sentenced on the basis that he punched this particular person, and not that he kicked them while they were on the ground. If the facts were presented to the Court that he had kicked someone on the ground, our client would have faced an actual prison sentence. However, by analyzing the footage and going split second to split second, we were able to point out to the Prosecutor that the noises that could be heard, that they say was our clients foot hitting the victim's face, was in fact, our client's boot on the other foot scraping the ground. There was clearly a split second between the noise and our client allegedly kicking the other person in the face, along with the fact that the other person suffered no injuries to their face consistent with kicking. The facts were amended, our client faced the charge only on the basis that he had punched someone and he was not required to spend any time in prison.
Example 9 – AOBH Charge reduced to common assault
The last example was where the medical evidence did not meet the definition of assault occasioning bodily harm. In that case our client was charged with assault occasioning bodily harm however, the medical evidence was unreliable. The Doctor who first saw the victim at the hospital did not note any serious injuries. It was only later that medical evidence seemed to indicate there was more serious injuries. Because we were able to show this inconsistency, the charge was reduced to common assault, which our client pled guilty to and he received a fine, but no conviction was recorded.
As you can see, these are just some examples of case conferencing that we have been successful with and there are many more examples of what we have been able to achieve. It is critical if you are charged with an assault charge that you seek out an experienced Criminal Lawyer who can properly case conference with a Prosecutor. Someone who has many decades of experience and has a good reputation with both the Courts and the Prosecutors. It is completely useless, if your Criminal Lawyer has a bad reputation, as no case conferencing will ever be successful. If you are charged with any assault charge, you should get immediate legal advice.
Other articles that may be of interest
- Your right to silence
- Negotiating with a Prosecutor in Queensland
- Court character references
- The difference between a conviction and non-conviction
- Declining a police interview
- A guide to an Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm Charge
- Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm
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