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   Jul 05

Adam Gage cries over prospect of going to jail over a domestic violence assault

Offender, 28 yr old Adam Gage with his Mum Rosann Swarbrick outside Liverpool Local Court during a break during Domestic Violence day on June 30, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. Photo: Anthony Johnson Magistrate Roger Prowse at Liverpool Local Court during a break during Domestic Violence day on June 30, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. Photo: Anthony Johnson
Nanjing Night Net

As soon as Adam Gage tries to talk about his domestic violence matter, he bursts into tears. But he’s not a victim, he is the perpetrator.

The 28-year-old from Hoxton Park is one of dozens who trudge through Liverpool Local Court’s weekly domestic violence day on Tuesday. On average, there are 80-100 matters rolled onto the same day each week – and that is just one local court in one small pocket of the state.

“I just hope I don’t go to jail,” he says, bursting into tears.

Gage, who is unemployed and lives with his mother, allegedly pushed his partner to the ground and bit her hand twice following an argument at her apartment on June 25.

She called 000 because he was refusing to leave but, when he took her car keys, she tried to grab them back and the scuffle ensued.

The police took Gage away while officers stayed to take a video-recorded statement from her under new laws that came into effect on June 1, allowing police to gather video evidence at the scene of domestic incidents. The footage showed blood on her hand from two bite marks.

Gage knows he has done wrong. He pleaded guilty to biting her hand but is disputing the push.

Asked how he can explain it, he is lost for words. He cries again.

His mother, Rosann Swarbrick, accepts that her son’s behaviour is not right. She said his five-year on/off relationship with his partner is complicated. She feels like her son is in a bind, confused and hamstrung by constant AVOs and the drawn out, overwhelming court process.

But she is still by his side, supporting him in court.

“It worries me,” she says. “I hope one day he will learn to step away.”

A pile of papers

A staggering pile of papers hits Magistrate Roger Prowse’s bench with a heavy thud.

It is Tuesday at Liverpool Local Court, the day each week when all domestic violence matters are heard.

These papers contain charges for around 80 to 100 offenders – AVOs, assaults, destroying property, threats to kill.

“That’s just one week’s worth,” Magistrate Prowse tells The Sun-Herald. “And in the [one year] I’ve been here [at Liverpool], that pile has not gone down.”

Courtroom Two, furnished in dark timber and fraying carpet, is a depressing illustration of the scourge of domestic violence flooding local courts around the country.

A line of about 30 people, mostly men, snakes through the foyer at 8.30am as they wait to speak with three police domestic violence liaison officers, whose primary job is to support victims through the court process.

Inside the court, the dreary procession continues. Billy Ryan, 27, apologises for not showing up last time to be sentenced for stalking/intimidation and destroying property – he was “addressing his ice addiction” and caring for his dying grandmother, his lawyer says.

William Strickland, 41, asks Magistrate Prowse for a second chance after bashing and spitting on his wife.

Many local courts roll domestic violence cases onto one day for practical reasons, so specialist services like police Domestic Violence Liaison Officers and victims’ safe rooms are not stretched across five days.

Some weeks, this court will sit until 6pm or 7pm to get through the avalanche of matters. Most are common assaults but up to three quarters will also include a charge of stalking or threatening to kill or physically harm a partner, a partner’s relatives or their children.

As the nation obsesses over the ABC allowing Zaky Mallah onto Q&A despite his conviction for threatening an ASIO officer, a man threatening to kill his partner is so common that it passes without mention, Magistrate Prowse says during the lunch break.

“When they talk about the scourge of terrorism, the proper use of the word scourge is domestic violence,” he says.

“Here, people intimidate a partner on a minute-by-minute basis and no one is up in arms about that. You know why? Because it is so common. It’s just a garden variety, everyday, good old Aussie occurrence.”

Magistrate Prowse says most offenders who come before him are disturbingly ignorant.

“Most have no idea that they could get [a prison term] for a domestic assault,” he said. “I have to try to leave them with something that will at least make them hesitate before they do it again.”

As Strickland comes to the microphone to apologise for assaulting his wife, he is taken aback when Magistrate Prowse tells him he can expect to go to jail.

He says it is his first offence but court papers show that his wife said he has been violent and controlling for most of their 17-year relationship. The first time she ever called for help was on June 25, three days after her husband punched her in the face, shook her head violently, threw a phone at her and spat on her for refusing to come upstairs to bed.

“I accept that I made a mistake,” he says. “I believe, as human beings, there is right and there is wrong and there are second chances. I stand here and humbly request to be given a chance to prove that my character is not that character.”

“This is not a mistake,” Magistrate Prowse replies sternly. “Wearing brown shoes with a black suit is a mistake. This is a serious act of criminality. You gave your wife a flogging and spat on her. That is a disgusting, loathsome, reprehensible act.”

He is astounded that Strickland was initially bailed to live at home with his wife and he orders him to stay elsewhere while an assessment for non-custodial options is undertaken.

Lawyer Elias Tabchouri says most perpetrators change when they’re hauled before a court.

About 10 per cent of his business is domestic violence – from representing balcony killer Simon Gittany to spending long days in frantic local courts.

“Domestic violence is often the only crime they’ve ever committed,” he said. “By nature they are domestic offences and passion often outweighs logic.”

What has improved noticeably at Liverpool is the victim’s experience of going through the court system.

A safe room ensures women don’t have to confront their partners while they seek AVOs or legal support and police DVLOs have become highly-respected, full-time positions. Some western Sydney stations have up to five and the government is about to employ another 24, mostly in rural towns.

“Whilst we haven’t won the war, our processes and support systems are making us a world leader. Other states are coming to us for advice,” said Assistant Commissioner Mick Fuller.

But Magistrate Prowse is still waiting for the day this trickles down to the pile of papers on his bench every Tuesday.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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