Common legal issues clients face
Each client’s circumstance is unique, and they can be facing many legal issues at once. We have some practical information to help you support your clients in a range of common legal areas and for referral to a lawyer.
Clients facing criminal charges
Sometimes people who have trouble controlling their gambling may commit crimes to fund their gambling or pay debts.
The law doesn’t excuse people who have committed crimes because of their issues with gambling, even if they have been formally diagnosed with a gambling disorder.
However, there is some good news. When a person is found guilty of a crime, the court may reduce their sentence if they are undergoing gambling treatment and rehabilitation.
How to help clients who are facing criminal charges
Clients facing criminal charges should be encouraged to seek professional legal help. Helping clients contact LawAccess is a good first step. LawAccess is a NSW Government service and can advise whether your client is eligible to receive help from Legal Aid. If your client is not eligible for Legal Aid, LawAccess can recommend a Community Legal Centre who can help.
In some cases, you may also be able to provide documents to the court such as court reports or a letter of attendance which proves your client has attended gambling counselling.
Sometimes the financial and psychological stress from excessive gambling can increase the likelihood of family violence. While there isn’t always family violence present in families where there is a high-risk gambler present, it’s important to watch for indicators that family members might be at risk of harm.
If your client seeks help dealing with family violence due to gambling, it’s important that you put their physical and emotional safety first. This could include encouraging them to make a formal report or call Triple Zero (000) if they are in immediate danger.
The Australian Government’s Family Violence Law Help website also provides information and resources to help you support your client.
Find information on AVOs, ADVOs and APVOs
Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs), Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs) and Apprehended Personal Violence Orders (APVOs) are court orders that protect someone from violence by a person they fear. Your client can apply for an Order through the Local Court, Police or themselves with your support.
For information on AVOs, ADVOs and APVOs, LawAccess NSW provides extensive resources which include case studies and sample forms. Visit LawAccess NSW for more information on AVOs
Duties of a mandatory reporter
Counsellors who are mandatory reporters should be aware of their legal obligation to report suspected child abuse and neglect. This can occur when children are left unsupervised while their parent/s gamble or when a parent does not meet their child’s basic needs.
For information on how to make a child protection report, visit the Communities and Justice website
Breach of a casino exclusion order
Under section 84 of the Casino Control Act 1992 (NSW) (CCA), it is an offence if an individual breaches an exclusion order issued by:
- the casino operator or the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) (section 79 CCA)
- the Commissioner of Police (section 81 CCA)
There is no similar law that applies to hotels or clubs.
If someone has decided to ban themselves from the casino, it is not an offence under the CCA to enter the venue while the ban is in place and no legal action can be taken against them. However, repeated breaches of a voluntary ban may result in a mandatory exclusion order being issued by the casino operator, ILGA or the NSW Police, which does result in legal action if breached.
Breaching a mandatory exclusion order
If a person enters or gambles at a casino after being issued an exclusion order by the casino operator, ILGA or NSW Police, they are deemed to have broken the law.
Entering a casino while a mandatory exclusion order is in place may lead to prosecution in court, resulting in a fine of up to $5,500 or 12-months jail.
If your client has breached a mandatory exclusion order and has received written correspondence from either the casino operator or Liquor & Gaming NSW, they should seek legal help as soon as possible.
How gambling counselling can help
If an individual is found guilty of breaching section 84 of the CCA, the court can postpone its decision to impose a penalty for up to 12 months to enable that person to undergo gambling counselling. The court will take into consideration the individual’s participation and efforts in gambling counselling once they return to court.
The court may decide to reduce its penalty if the person continues to attend gambling counselling throughout the postponement period and reduces or stops their gambling.
Providing a letter of attendance
Your client may request that you provide a letter of attendance which provides evidence they have undergone gambling counselling. The letter should include:
- Your qualifications for providing counselling services and other relevant credentials, for example your Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia registration
- The dates when the client attended counselling
- Optionally, a general description of the counselling provided and how much the client engaged with the counselling process.