Tarek, a young refugee, struggled to comply with a community correction order. Without the right mental health support, many people are at risk of a cycle of re-offending’ – Tarek’s lawyer

Tarek* was on a tumultuous path from the time his father was shot dead and he first entered a refugee camp. His mother hoped that bringing her son to Australia would end the violence and unpredictability in their lives.

Tarek finished high school and began work in the family business. However the combination of living with an abusive stepfather and an undiagnosed mental illness meant he was unsettled.

As a teenager, he drank heavily, smoked cannabis and was increasingly agitated, culminating in a number of charges against him, including assault of a police officer.

After this first brush with the law, a magistrate imposed a community correction order. It required Tarek to attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation services and do unpaid work in the community.

But because his underlying mental health problems had not been addressed Tarek failed to follow the terms of the order. His first breach incurred a one-month suspended prison sentence.

Tarek was by now on a downward spiral. He faced further charges of recklessly causing injury following a brawl. His substance abuse increased and he lashed out at his family, resulting in an intervention order that prevented him seeing his mother and effectively made him homeless.

He was arrested again when he breached that order by trying to contact his mother. At this point a prison psychiatrist assessed him and he was finally diagnosed him with schizophrenia.

For the first time Tarek began receiving the support, case management and housing assistance he needed

He was still facing prison for the serious injury charge however. Representing him, our lawyer outlined how much his circumstances had changed. Now that he was stable and receiving support, the court agreed that he was in a much better position to stick to the conditions of a new community correction order.

Now that he has ongoing support, Tarek has not needed any further legal help over the past six months.

* We have changed our client’s name to protect his privacy.