Note: This resource has not been updated for a number of years, and due to changes in legislation, what is represented here may no longer reflect current best practice.

Case study: criminal justice & domestic violence

Authors: Mel Cadman & Kathryn Cameron


Shavita's Story transcript


What's happened to my life what have I done I knew better than everybody in my family that he was my kind of guy funny charming smart as could be he was local and white, well it is the 21st century I thought these old people my family they belong to another era, I knew what was best for me, but he did this, he made me question everything that I believe.

After that night though I can't even think about it without feeling physically sick what had got into him, how could anyone behave like that I just cant understand what is going on.

He has become a complete bastard and there is no way that I am going to let him come near me and my children. The very thought of bringing up my two children up on my own, I have become a statistic a single parent god I have to stop being such a pitiful creature and so pathetic about this. I am an intelligent smart woman I have an education I have a career ahead of me. He will be back of course I can't trust him not to have another go at me. That helpful lady, I think she was from victim support; she said that I should speak to a solicitor straight away and get a court order so that he doesn't come near us.

He will have rights to the children she said, I don't understand after what he has done. The children are saying that they don't want anything to do with him they don't want to see him, but at heart I know they are only saying that to keep me happy. He was very fond of them when they where younger, I still remember the wait until daddy gets home I am going to tell him that I done a painting at school.

What's this social worker coming around to see us though, it specifically says in the letter that he wants to speak to the children, I mean surely they don't think that I am responsible for all this, he is a male social worker, what is he going to understand about what I have been through, I am really not happy about this at all, but I guess I do not have a choice do I. How's it going to go with the house though I mean what if we are just put out on the street, my god the thought of that is just? I will need to find out what rights I have to the house, the biggest problem is going to be the money I don't have any savings and the bills and the mortgage is just going to pile up. I am sure he is obliged to supply accommodation and pay, will he though, I can't believe this is happening to me I am just a little past thirty, what's going to happen.

Ian and solicitor transcript


Ian, please take a seat. Thanks for coming in I just needed to sit down with you to check things out before we go to court next week. First of all I need to confirm that you are tendering a plea of guilty to all of the charges.


What else can I do, I don't know what is happening to me I mean I have never hurt anybody before. Will she be alright I mean Shavita, just think only a year ago things where so different. Happily married, great kids getting on well with the job ok it was unravelling a bit even then I will grant you, but just look at it now.


Ok let's just take it one step at a time.


Sorry you want to talk about the accident and all these charges I have got now, dangerous driving, driving under the influence of alcohol, endangering life and that bus stop too, it's just a nightmare, I can hardly remember a thing about that night. I just woke up in hospital the next day, but how is the woman I hit down is she going to be ok?


I believe she has got a broken nose and a lot of bruising; she was discharged from hospital last week though she will need some plastic surgery on her nose. I think from what I have read in the witness statement she is very lucky that she did not come of a lot worse, I'm afraid the bus stop wasn't so lucky and it has been completely demolished and will have to be replaced, its likely a compensation order will be sought and your alcohol count was very high.


Look I don't need you to lecture me on my morals ok, I am pleading guilty, you aren't going to make me feel any worse than I do already. I have got no choice but to plead guilty, isn't that what you have more or less told me, how bad is it going to be for me?


During our last meeting you asked me for my advice on the basis of the statements and the blood alcohol reading, the evidence against you is very strong. You told me you had been drinking you where upset and you had taken the corner to fast.


Of course you are right guilty it is, but surely not to the endangering life charge that is just asking for them to throw the whole book at me. Do you think you could do a deal with the PF and get that charge dropped?


I don't know, but I will obviously speak with the fiscal. Maybe the woman's speedy recovery might help with this provided we agree to the guilty charge and all the other counts, so we are agreed on that then, let's move on then. We have also got that other charge of the breach of the interdict coming up. I've got to present a plea in mitigation of sentence so I need to hear a bit about what led up to this, so lets just think about that.


I just can't think, I am missing my wife and children, I am living on my own, I just get upset, that leads to me drinking more than I should and I just, I don't know go a bit crazy I suppose, jump in my car and before I know it I am hammering at the door and I hear her yelling, go away and I sort of go wild and start shouting at her and next thing I know the police grab me from behind is it a crime to want to see your own wife and your kids, how long is it since I last saw them?


Yes Ian ok but it is most definitely an offence and you know it and the court knows it and the court are treating domestic violence very seriously so you can't plead ignorance of the law you need to acknowledge the seriousness of what you did. You can plead desperation or loneliness or the urge to be a good father and partner it may help but I certainly could not guarantee it.


Will that work with the other driving charges though?


Well unless there are any other reasons I don't know about that might convince the court, no? Well I will do what I can to find something along these lines. As a solicitor though it is my duty to warn you that you are not likely to get a lot of sympathy and you could even face a prison sentence, looks like you are in serious trouble, not my business of course but have you ever thought about contacting social work services?


Are you kidding, they will do nothing for me they will just see me as the bad guy in the piece and start lecturing me. The last time I was interviewed by them after the dispute between Shavita and me ok, assault! I felt I was being though of as I had been thought of as someone who would hurt his own children.


Well just think about the problems that you are facing now, social services will probably be asked to do a report before sentence and I think it may be in your best interest to make the first move. I have to say the amount of alcohol in your system was very high and you are saying yourself that you are finding life very difficult. Going to see them could be very helpful and who knows they might be able to help out far more than you know. Yes I know how you felt about their last visit but it is their job to make sure that the children are safe. I am beginning to think the best thing to ask the court to consider would be probation, look that would ensure that you get support and you clearly need this, but it would also lessen the likelihood of you being imprisoned. Please just think about it that is all I am asking. I am sorry but I am due in court and I have to go now.

Ian's social worker transcript

Stage One

How can someone who's got so much going for him be so hell bent on self destruction? He had a great job, nice house, and a wife and kids he always says he didn't deserve…. and then this? So many of the people I work with have nothing to start with and… Well if that doesn't excuse everything, it sure makes it understandable. I don't feel I've ever really connected with him. But there must be some key?… Need to keep an eye on the positives for this report.

No different from most other people on probation really…started well…kept early appointments…if not exactly at ease. I felt he was beginning to open up a good bit more. By the fourth week…no show! And the standard letter to his home reminding him of his obligation…blah, blah…and a phone call on week five with some excuse. Then nothing in week six. A phone call made…he picked up the phone but made no sense at all. I'm sure he's back drinking again….What can I put here?

Stage Two

That's the third phone call in about six weeks from the Community Service Office to say he's failed to turn up to his placement. It's at the dementia centre. And I suppose on top of that you'd need to include the fact that some of the staff were saying they thought they'd smelt drink from him. On the other hand the head of the centre says he's great with the residents and very patient. He certainly talked about it almost enthusiastically, which is quite something for Ian. So, what should I say about that?

Stage Three

I sometimes wonder why we make conditions of attendance at alcohol counselling centres without being clear who's responsible for monitoring attendance. I'm never entirely sure about the boundaries of confidentiality here, but I always feel they resent passing on information about how people are getting on. The facts are clear though. His attendance was okay initially, his motivation was never clear, and he hasn't turned up at all during the last three weeks… so that's…

Stage Four

We really focus here on the offender and his behaviour, not his family. But no question, this is at the root of Ian's problems. And he needs to make some sense of it all. I've had Shavita's social worker telling me that he's stopped paying the mortgage. There have been occasional maudlin and tearful calls from him to Shavita pleading to speak to the kids…och it's all a bit of a mess.

Will he talk to me about any of this? No chance so far…but it's where we need to go if we want to get Ian sorted. As I said at the beginning, this is a man with a future. So, what would be relevant here?

Stage Five

This is always the tricky bit. It's so easy to treat his as a cut and dried instance of clear breach and recommend instituting full breach proceedings. And me, as a social worker, I always want to see the other point of view, the underdog. Only he's not really, when you think of the damage he's done so far. But he's definitely got a lot of potential to turn things around, if only we can find the right start. It's important to get the tone of this final entry right.