Ash had just turned 18 and was in his final year at school, when he was stopped by police and searched on the street. He had no criminal record, but was often stopped and searched by police.
Police found a fishing knife and $2500 in cash.
He was arrested, charged with Goods In Custody suspected of being stolen in relation to the money, and Custody of Knife for the fishing knife. He was released on police bail after a night in custody.
He was advised that he was ineligible for a grant of legal aid as he was not facing jail.
He pleaded guilty to Custody of Knife and pleaded not guilty to the Goods in Custody charge, and was prepared to give evidence that this was his money.
He was not represented at the court hearing. He found this scary, felt intimidated, confused and didn’t know what was happening. He was cross-examined after giving evidence about how he possessed the cash.
He was given a chance to cross-examine the police but didn’t know what to ask. He did not tell the court he had spent a night in custody.
Ash was found guilty of the goods in custody offence and was sentenced straight away to a section 9 good behaviour bond for 6 months with a conviction. He was also fined $220, with a conviction, for possessing the knife.
Ash was very upset and wanted to appeal. He received brief initial advice from a Legal Aid lawyer, but was ineligible for aid on his appeal, and was referred to the Law Society of NSW Pro Bono Scheme, which arranged representation for a reduced fee of $1800.
His appeal was successful – as there were grounds for not recording a conviction that were not aired because he had no representation in the first instance – and he received a section 10 (1)(b) good behaviour bond without conviction in lieu of the s9 bond from the Local Court for the goods in custody charge, and in lieu of the fine with conviction for the custody of a knife.
He is grateful he has no criminal record and has just started his university degree. In most cases, someone like Ash would not have been able to afford a lawyer, even on a reduced fee basis, and would suffer the long lasting effects of criminal convictions.