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Plea traversal successful after client sentenced to jail. Judge critical of previous law firms

Our client is 33 year old woman from Tumut.
She had been struggling with mental health issues for some time.
Between December 2012 and April 2016 it was alleged that she had committed a number of fraud related offences.
The Police Facts stated that she had withdrawn almost $500,000 from her parents savings account and also obtained $149,000 from various financial institutions and money lenders.
In early 2016, her parents discovered the withdrawals and confronted her. Following this she attended Tumut Police Station and confessed to the fraud offences.
In her interview with Police she stated that she had not slept for days on end prior to the offences and was suffering from severe mental health issues.
It took almost 2 years for Police to complete their investigation and formally charge her.
Initially she instructed another large criminal law firm to act for her. Within a few months she lost confidence in them and switched to a different large criminal law firm.
The advice she received from both firms was to plead guilty.
Ultimately, she did plead guilty and proceeded to sentence at Tumut Local Court where she was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
She filed an appeal and was granted ‘appeals bail’. This mean that she could stay in the community until her appeal was heard.
She was distraught with the result and contacted us after being made aware of a previous similar case where we secured a not guilty verdict.
First, we obtained the file from her previous lawyers. Upon reading the file, it became evident that the client had at no stage been advised that she had the defence of mental illness open to her.
We raised this with the client who advised that if she had been advised that a defence of mental illness was available to her, she would never have pleaded guilty.
Plainly the integrity of the plea had been affected.
At Wagga Wagga District Court we filed a Notice of Motion and Affidavit in support of plea traversal.
The DPP opposed the plea being traversed.
At the Hearing of the application, the Judge was extremely critical of both of the client’s previous law firms for their failure to properly advise the client of the mental illness defence.
There was also evidence that the previous lawyers had pressured the client into signing a document agreeing to plead guilty weeks after they had attended Court and entered a plea of guilty on her behalf.
The Judge had no difficulty in granted the plea traversal and sending the case to Wagga Wagga Local Court for the client to formally plead ‘not guilty’.
We are currently awaiting a Hearing date due to the coronavirus pandemic. We will update this page following the result.

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