A real fictional courtroom drama

A COURTROOM drama, revolving around a real case of culpable driving, helped educate the community about the legal system in Sale last week.

Presented by the Gippsland Community Legal Service for Law Week, a cast of locals took on the roles of judge, prosecutor, defence lawyer and defendant, among others.

The case involved a man before the court who allegedly killed his best friend in a drunk driving incident — a relatable case for many people.

GCLS’s community development officer Bruce Mapperson said it was an opportunity for people to re-enact what really goes on in a court room, and experience what the justice system is like.

“It’s particularly relevant today because we often see media reports about various people in the community calling for increased sentencing and increased policing,” he said.

“There’s often a lot of stories around increases in violent crimes for example, and it does raise concerns within the community — often there’s often an element of being emotively-based.

“But obviously in the court system, it’s really important that decisions are made based on facts, and this is an opportunity for the participants to listen to all the facts, and be informed about all the sentencing options that were available to the court in this particular case.

“We do get their input into what they think would be an appropriate sentence, then we tell them what the actual sentence was in this particular case.

“It’s an opportunity to think about experiencing the justice system, thinking about what a just sentence would be, and an opportunity to experience in normal circumstances most people won’t get to experience.”

Anita Hensen, who played the role of judge, said it was a rewarding experience that provided a much deeper understanding of how a court works.

“I know somebody, a close friend, who has had this situation, where their son was driving, and he had been drinking, and his friend ended up in a wheelchair as a paraplegic, he did that when he was 18, he went to the County Court, he ended up in a youth justice centre for 12 months, and was charged with culpable driving, so for me to see what he and his family went through, I had a connection with that,” she explained.

“Particularly the guy (in the re-enactment) that was driving — he didn’t mean it, and he killed his best friend, and you have compassion for him, and yet he went to jail for three years.

“Yes, there has to be some punishment, but he’ll carry that punishment for the rest of his life.”

She added it would be particularly beneficial for young people to see the consequences of their actions.

“I think, this afternoon, with the year 11 and 12 students, this will be invaluable for them, particularly as one of the cases they’ll be talking about is sexting, and that applies to them, so I think this is probably even more important for youth to do that,” she said.

“Somebody mentioned coming here on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you can actually come along and watch open court, and I think I might do that, so you can see what’s actually going on in our community.”

The day was also a chance for the GCLS, which is provided by Anglicare, to explain their role in the area, especially for financially disadvantaged people.

“We cover the entire Gippsland region, we provide a range of advice and representation, but as a community legal centre, another important part is provide legal education within the community, we also do things like work around justice projects and access to justice and law reform,” Mr Mapperson said.

“A project we’re working on at the moment, in conjunction with some other community legal services based in Gippsland that are similar to us in providing services to the vulnerable, and also in conjunction with Victoria LegalAid, we’re undertaking a series of workshops at the moment to map out the current status of legal provision within Gippsland as a collaborative project.

“We’re working on a vision of what we’d like to see for the region by 2023, and we’re in the process of doing that at the moment, also looking at what needs to happen in order for that vision to occur.

“We have the local knowledge, which is really important, and we’re doing that as part of a forum we implemented through Gippsland, known as the Gippland Legal Assistance Forum, where we look at opportunities to increase access to justice and raise and advocate for law reform within the

community.”

For more information about the GCLS, phone 5133 0411.