Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Imagine ...




Imagine waking up every day and wondering whether or not it was one day closer to your youngest child being taken away from you.

Imagine not knowing if he was going to be safe.

Or warm.

Imagine thinking about how scared he would be.

Imagine thinking about that moment when you said goodbye, knowing you and he would never, ever be the same again.

Imagine your baby sleeping in a prison cell every night.

I imagined this.  For 6 very long months.  Every single day.  Every single night.

In January, my youngest saw himself on the wrong side of the law.  It happened on his 18th birthday.  He was involved in a scuffle and ended up biting someone in self defence.   We have since found out that biting is a serious offence.  So serious that the majority of biting charges end up with a jail sentence.

He was charged, despite it being self defence, and unfortunately the statements against him looked very damning.

When someone is charged with an offence they receive a little piece of paper, smaller than A5 which provides details of when they are to appear in court.  I hate this little piece of paper.  I've never hated a piece of paper before, but this paper sat on the fridge, under a magnet, mocking us all.  Mocking us with its smugness.  With its power.

We hired lawyers and went to court.  For all of us it was first time ever in court.  We were so green.  Whilst it was scary, we thought there would be a smack over the knuckles and a fine.  We were convinced the charges would be dropped.  We were green and also very wrong.

You see, the police rarely drop charges and as they were the ones who laid the charges my son was not going to get off lightly.  We were given another date to return to court in a few weeks time.  It suddenly became more real.  Suddenly all optimism had disappeared.

The lawyers were still confident and reassured us that it would be over before it got to trial.  In fact they said it would be bad for my son if it went to trial.  Magistrates don't take kindly to people who bite others.   I held onto our lawyers optimism and confidence.  Sometimes.   Sometimes I had nightmares instead.   I imagine my boy was also having nightmares in his own private world.

Our lawyers viewed CCTV footage, looked at statements did a mountain of discovery.  What they found was that my son had not broken the law and that he had actually been assaulted by a third party, the person who he had bitten in self defence.

This information was compiled into a report and presented to the police.  We were told it would soon be over.  They were wrong.  The police refused to drop it and were pushing for ... 18 months jail.   Words can't describe how hearing this felt.

I have one word for the court process - crazy.  I still don't even understand how it all works and doubt I ever will.  Absolutely nothing made sense.  In fact, Judge Judy makes more sense.  Truly. 

This is how the whole process appeared to work.  You turn up, the lawyer says a few words the magistrate looks in his diary and gives you another date.  You turn up again and the lawyer says a few words.  The police say a few more.  The magistrate looks in his book and gives you another date.   Rinse and repeat!

It turns out we didn't have to go to the next appearance.  The lawyer could go on our behalf.  We find out the magistrate has done something different - we are going to a different court - the matter is going to trial!   Our worst nightmares have come true.

I think this is the time we all bottomed out.  This was serious.  There was no thinking it would go away.  The police weren't backing down despite the evidence.  It no longer mattered about the law and who was right or wrong.   It now came down to a magistrate who had the power to send my boy to jail.

Two days later I heard a news story where a prison warden was sent to jail for hitting a prisoner.  The said prisoner had bitten and spat on the warden.  The prisoner had hepatitis C.  The magistrate decided that he/she was going to make an example of the warden and gave him a jail sentence.  This made my blood run cold.  I feared a magistrate would also make an example of my boy. 

To be very clear, I don't think teenagers should be let off crimes because they are teenagers.  Nor do I think they can behave badly without ramifications.   My son wasn't an angel in this instance.   He was verbally abusive to a bouncer and some "dancers" from a club.  He was menacing.  He was behaving like a feral 18 year old drunken fool.    However a bouncer, left his position on the door and went down an alley way to engage in a fight with him.   A club manager also went down the alley and attacked him from behind.   All of this on CCTV footage.   My son deserved to learn a lesson, he did not, however, deserve to go to jail.

In a last ditch attempt to have the charges withdrawn our lawyers visited the police again.  This time the officer in charge was prepared to listen, to look at the facts.   He was astounded it had gone this far.  He dropped the assault charges to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.  This would result in no conviction and a fine. 

When our lawyer called to give me this news I have never been so relieved.  I wanted to jump up and down and scream with joy.

This was a month ago.  I am still jumping for joy.

We still had to go to court and it was still nerve wracking.  However it was such a relief to go to court safe in the knowledge that no matter what happened I could take my son home with me.  Had the trial gone ahead, he may have been taken away to jail.

The realisation of this fact caused my son to momentarily lose the colour in his face.  "So I couldn't go home and pack my stuff or say goodbye?"
"Uh no, you would be handcuffed and taken away from here."  I answered.
"No wonder you have been so stressed mum".
No shit Sherlock!

Whilst my son has learned a valuable lesson, he is eighteen.  He is still capable of acting before thinking.  He is still capable of mistakes.  He is still capable of causing me heartache.

Parenting teenagers is so scary.  It is heart in mouth kind of stuff.  It's a scary ride where you close your eyes, hold your breath and grip on as tight as you can for dear life.   It still is the scariest thing I've ever done.

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 PS:  The biggest ever heartfelt thanks to my amazing husband who paid the bulk of the lawyer fees.  We would not have gotten through this without you. xx

PPS:  My husband is not my son's father.

PPPS:   This is why he is so amazing.

29 comments:

  1. Oh Annie I am so relieved for you.I can only imagine the fear you must have gone through.
    My girl is 18 and I feel sick every time she goes out at night as these days you never know what can happen.Her just getting in a car at night I cant rest till I know she is home safe.
    At the moment I am lying in her bed with her after she cried herself to sleep over a broken heart.Another heart wrenching thing about being a parent of a teenager.
    I so agree with you.It is heart in mouth kind of stuff this teenage biz and the scariest thing I have ever done.
    Goodluck with yours and big pat on the back to your wonderful hubby.xx

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    1. Thanks Deb. It is such a scary time for parents. I hope your girl's heart mends really soon xx

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  2. My heart was in my mouth the whole time reading this; so very relieved for you all. The justice system really does my head in sometimes - I am sure your son has learnt a huge amount from this experience. May you sleep well tonight ! x

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    1. I think he has, but you just never know with 18 year olds. I may not be tough enough I fear!

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  3. What a nightmare! So glad it had a happy ending.
    xx

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  4. Oh Annie...
    I have recently come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter how old our babies are if they are hurting, afraid, sick, happy, sad, all of the above, our connection to them is so deep that it affects us just as much as if it were our own experiences.
    And I agree - parenting teens is the scariest stuff I have done too.
    I'm glad you are on the other side of it. May the experience have a long and lasting impression on your son. x

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    1. I tend to agree. I was hoping at some stage I would feel a bit less - but not so. Bigger kids, bigger problems, bigger hurting heart. Sigh. xx

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  5. Dear dear Annie, if ever there was a situation to test your anxiety ...this was it. I read with my heart in my mouth too. Oh hon. I know how not sharing would have been, because it feels shameful too. I so need us to talk again! Our son, a bit older than yours, was charged with evading police and speeding & he had to appear before the court. His dad & I were supportive of course but he'd been silly enough to drive off while police pursued him. He was living under our roof. My husband sought legal advice too because he "though" maybe he could represent our son. No way said the lawyer, you need to hire a barrister, and you need to appear with your son & have references of character ....etc.. two court appearances, with $600 cash payment upfront to the barrister who did little ( except in law it's about the what you say etc) first time in court - son got suspended sentence with fines & demand to complete courses where he could learn about responsible driving. Of course, who had to take him to his courses... But he saw them through, there was a 2nd appearance where the magistrate agreed he'd fulfilled the tasks & did record the sentence. We paid the $600 again & son did not go to jail. Which was on the cards. Annie, we've talked of our boys (despite mine now being 33!) and it's a fine line between making them become more responsible & protecting them from danger. Our son is now registered psychologist but he had to declare this criminal charge of 10-12 years earlier as it would have gone against him had he not when he applied for registration. His referees and clean record since meant that his previous crime did not come against him. Love to you Denyse x

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    1. Gee Denyse you must be so proud of your son. I saw his achievement today and felt pride for you. It is a tough ride when kids don't stay on the rails, but at the end of it all you just love them and hope they make it through. Thank you for your lovely comment. xx

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    2. Thank you Annie, we have taken many different paths with our sons, but the same ending will always be, we love them, and want them to stay safe and well. Denyse xx

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  6. *Gulps* Thank goodness common sense prevailed in the end and the charge was downgraded. I cannot even begin to understand how I would feel in the same situation.

    I hope your families future is looking a little brighter tonight.

    xA

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    1. Yep, there was a lot of gulping going on here! I think I spent most of the 6 months not allowing myself to think. Thank goodness it worked out. xxx

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  8. Wow Annie. Just wow.

    Super glad it worked out ok, but I am really unhappy for you that you had to go through all that ridiculous bureacracy first. The more I hear first-hand accounts of people dealing with our legal system, the more alarmed I am for us all.

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    1. It is the craziest system ever. So inefficient and tied up in red tape, blue tape and every other colour inbetween!

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  9. What an awful experience for you all. Things can change so quickly, from good to bad. And then back again. I hope you have many peaceful years ahead now.

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    1. I'm not sure we are in the peaceful years stage just yet - I can almost smell it, but not quite.

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  10. Oh Annie, what a horrid, stressful time for you all. I am so glad common sense prevailed.

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    1. I am so glad too. Still can't imagine how I would have coped. Thankfully I don't have to know xxx

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  11. Reading this brought tears to my eyes, thank goodness for a happy ending. I'm not looking forward to when my kids grow into teenagers, can't they stay babies a little while longer? Xx

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    1. I still wish them little ones again. Physically tiring and draining, but so much easier mentally. Enjoy it while you can xxx

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  12. Holy hell what an emotional rollercoaster you've been on! From one mother to another I am so relieved this nightmare is over for you x

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    1. Thank you Donna, I am so relieved too. xx

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  13. Oh dear Annie, thank god he didn't have to go to jail. It sounds like a mess, fantastic that you could get the lawyers who were able to work hard and get the police to see sense.

    My brother was in prison for about 6 months many years ago. Visiting was hideous as I'm sure you can imagine. He was in his 20's and pretty psychotic at that time. Being 18 is far too young. It didn't turn out too badly for my brother as he met various boys he was at school with and they protected him. Old Boys Network comes good.

    I hope your son is able to rein himself in and not get into this sort of bother again. It's a shocker to have boys, a few minutes of madness can have lifelong impact - terrifying.

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  14. As a Mum to three boys I read this posts sitting on the edge of my chair. I have been involved in a custody battle in the family law court and it was just red tape, pieces of paper, constant dates and a whole pile of money. Yet never the fear of seeing my child behind bars. I am so glad this worked out for you. The law is an ass at times.

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  15. Ah sweet relief. How awful. A couple of years ago my uncle was charged by some girls with a lie. We went through months and months of delays before the trial completed an the judge announced how "erroneous" the charges had been. Ugh.

    You efe so strong. Good for you. :)

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  16. Oh wow, what a heartbreaking time that must have been. I'm so glad you got to bring your boy home.

    Alcohol is such a terrible contributor to so many tragedies. And the justice system just seems so whacked. My home town was hit with a few alcohol induced tragedies a few years ago, a couple of months apart. First a young woman, who was one of my brother's closest friends was killed while she was trying to move her car to prevent it from being damaged by a drunk driver being foolish in his car. He got less than a year. A few months later on NYE a young boy was being a fool in his car and was trying to run over some girls, then got out and started a fight. Unfortunately the man he started a fight with was much stronger and in an attempt to defend himself from being glassed, he hit out and knocked the boy down, who hit his head. He's now disabled, but the other guy got 18 months. His baby was born while he was in prison, an act of self defense got more time than, what was essentially a murder. I don't understand the legal system either, and I don't think I ever will.

    Alcohol is so dangerous, I wish young teens could see the damage it causes before they get themselves in trouble.

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  17. When I got my driver's licence at the wee age of 16, my best friend's Dad pulled my mate and I into his dining room, sat us down and showed us newspaper clippings and court documents.
    When he'd gotten his licence in the 1960's, he'd had a few drink at a wedding and on the way home, collided with a motorbike. The rider survived (though initially, Ian though the rider had lost his leg because his boot was stuck in the motorbike's wheel).
    He fessed up he'd been drinking, but just passed the sobriety test. He was taken back to the police station and after a few hours given a blood test, which showed him just under.

    He walked away thinking he was OK. A week later he was sent two pieces of seemingly identical pages - the first was a charge of negligent driving, which carried a fine. The second - as his lawyer explained to him later - was for malicious driving - driving with the intent to cause harm - and carried several years of jail time.

    To make a long story short, he got off, but not before pointing out that my best mate wouldn't have existed - because he would have been in jail instead of a newly proud father.

    I was always blown away by that story. I've never driven drunk. Not ever.

    Keep all the docs, Anne, and make sure your son can tell the story. Maybe he can give son kids something to think about in twenty years too.

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me x

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