Parramatta Siege Highlights a Fragile System
Earlier this month, NSW Police found themselves embroiled in a 12-hour stand-off with a 52 year old man who barricaded himself in a legal office in Parramatta with his 12 year old daughter, claiming he had an explosive device in his backpack.
Initial reports indicated that the daughter was being held hostage during this time and everyone’s thoughts immediately turned to the terrible possibility that it was a family law dispute which had turned ‘sour’ and the father had snapped over custody issues.
As it turned out, the issue was not related to family law. The daughter claims she willingly stayed with her father because she feared he would be hurt. The father was actually making demands for cash from the Aboriginal Land Council, access to a barrister and legal action to be taken against another man he was involved in a dispute with.
In this case the man had a lengthy criminal history of personal violence and firearms offences. He was arrested after police entered the building after seven hours of negotiations, and is due to face charges in Court later this month.
Whilst a family law dispute was not the trigger for this siege, the actions of the man involved have highlighted the fragility of the system and the fear of many in the legal profession that something like this could happen in a family law matter. As legal practitioners we have a responsibility to try and identify potential issues or breakdowns before they arise and develop strategies to de-fuse highly emotive situations wherever possible. Some law firms even have specific ‘emergency procedures’ in place in the event that a client, or disgruntled ex-partner of a client, becomes hostile or aggressive.
At Coleman Greig we work hard to minimise the potential for conflict in a family law matter and negotiate property settlements or parenting arrangements fairly and equitably wherever possible. We also go to great to lengths to ensure the personal safety and well-being of our clients and any children involved and we can provide assistance with personal protection through domestic violence orders if necessary.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that some family law disputes simply cannot be resolved to the mutual satisfaction of both parties and we have to continue working with the system to try and prevent matters from deteriorating to such an extent.