For her first 44 years, Annabelle* had no trouble with the law. Annabelle struggled to find work after suffering a car accident in 2015. Soon after, her relationship broke down and she found herself in significant debt. She was evicted from her family home because she was unable to maintain her rental payments. Annabelle had suffered family violence and dealt with chronic alcohol addiction.
After obtaining a new rental property, in early 2017 Annabelle was again evicted for rental arrears. Annabelle had nowhere to go. She broke back into the vacant rental property from which she had just been evicted because she needed shelter. She felt comfort in the familiar surroundings. Annabelle was charged with trespass.
Annabelle found attending court particularly difficult. She was still dealing with her alcohol addiction and had begun addressing underlying mental health issues through a mental health care plan. The court process was also unfamiliar to Annabelle. She spent her nights sleeping on a couch in the outer north-western suburbs of Melbourne. Getting to court took her several hours on public transport.
Due to the advocacy of the Homeless Law criminal lawyer and the support of the HPLO social worker, the judge granted Annabelle a diversion on the basis that she would continue to work with the social worker. This meant that she avoided a finding of guilt and the criminal record implications.
* Annabelle’s name has been changed