Basically, I didn’t know where to start, but I knew I’d need some advice. By searching online, I came across a firm that specialises in criminal defence. They caught my eye because they had information on their website about stalking, which is what I was initially charged with, and also about sex offences. (So, I guess that shows that SEO works, if you do it properly…) It was a relief discovering that there are criminal defence lawyers, as I knew I couldn’t really ask a lawyer who deals with things like traffic infringements or family law to represent me in a case like this.
This was probably a few days after the arrest. I left a message through their web form and one of the partners called me back. Naturally his first piece of advice was to not say anything. Of course, by that stage it was too late: I’d already been most forthcoming during my arrest and the subsequent recorded interview.
My view was (and to some degree still is) that being open and honest can reflect favourably, and that being evasive can make it seem like you have something to hide. Indeed, if you start out talking and then become evasive when particular questions arise, that could count against you. But if you consistently say “no comment” from the beginning the result is that you give Police nothing of evidentiary value. Of course, they can and will still look for other evidence to use against you, but there’s no point revealing any on top of what they’re already likely to find. In my case, I figured that they’d get plenty of evidence from my computer, along with victim statements, so I chose to speak.
Anyway, getting back on topic, I met with this lawyer and explained the situation as best I could. He handed me a brochure on pleading guilty (you don’t plead guilty unless you have evidence to back it up), which outlined the court process. Summary: the court system effectively “filters” cases. Most issues are dealt with by the Magistrate’s Court during a single hearing, but some need a further hearing that might involve the County Court. An even smaller number go through to a trial.
I think the best thing about having a lawyer, aside from getting a referral to a psychologist, was having someone who could deal with Police. I did need to go to the station on one occasion to have a document served (the transcript of the victim’s interview), but correspondence regarding the brief was handled by the legal firm. And, of course, it meant having representation in court, which is a good thing in a stressful situation. It also meant going broke: lawyers are not cheap, particularly if you get an experienced one, as you pay for that experience.
I’ll cover more of the story (the brief, additional charges, and the court case) in future posts.