Without legal aid, widowed retiree James didn’t have the necessary legal advice to assist with lodging an appeal. Application flaws left James with depression and the matter unresolved.

 

James is a widower living in a retirement village.

He has paid for his modest unit through the sale of the home he occupied with his late wife. He subsists on the aged pension.

James is an avid golfer and volunteers at his local club to tend some of the gardens, and mow some of the fairways. He is popular and productive.

One day James is accused by a female committee member of indecently assaulting her, by fondling her breasts at the club premises. She complains to the police, who ultimately take the matter no further, since there is no corroborative evidence of the complaint, and some issue with some of the complainant’s account.

But the female makes a formal complaint to the club committee, seeking James’ expulsion from the club. A disciplinary committee and, after hearing from both, it determines it is satisfied that the acts occurred and James is fired from the club committee.

Three weeks later, a member of the disciplinary committee tells James that he really didn’t believe the complainant, but she was on the committee and would have resigned if the decision went against her.

James, who is devastated and humiliated by the outcome, is advised by a friend to seek legal advice as he can “appeal”. He sees a volunteer solicitor at his local Community Legal Centre and is advised he has a right to appeal to the Magistrates’ Court under the relevant associations incorporation legislation. The CLC does not do casework. He is refused legal aid, as it is a civil matter which does not come under the guidelines.

The golf club has an honorary solicitor, who writes to him, pointing out the numerous flaws in his application and his lack of compliance with the Rules of Court. It threatens an application for costs if the application is not withdrawn.

James is frantic. His health suffers. He does not respond to the club’s solicitor and does not appear when the application is called before the Court. His application is dismissed, and a costs order in favour of the club is made for almost $3,000.

Result: James has been diagnosed with depression, and the issue of his satisfaction of the costs order remains unresolved.

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