Tom Woodward, Criminal Lawyer
Tom was admitted as an Australian Lawyer in 2018 after graduating with a Bachelor of Laws with Honours and completing a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, where criminal law, advocacy and the passion to practise as a criminal defence lawyer were at the forefront of his studies.
Before joining Dribbin and Brown Criminal Lawyers, Tom worked for two years as an assistant to a senior criminal defence barrister, taking instructions, attending trials and assisting in preparing legal submissions and pleas of guilty. Tom also worked on serious criminal matters, including rape, indecent assaults, culpable driving and aggravated burglary.
This experience, coupled with his integrity, passion and commitment towards justice, has helped shape him into the lawyer he is today.
Tom firmly believes that every accused person deserves a just and equitable hearing and understands defence lawyers’ critical role in ensuring justice and equity.
Tom regularly appears in the Magistrates’ Court in mentions, plea hearings, contest mentions, and bail applications. His natural confidence, knowledge, and amicable manner endear him to his clients and the court.
Tom's recent case outcomes:
1. Community Corrections Order - 4 x Obtaining financial advantage by deception
In a highly publicised case in the media, our client was charged with four counts of ‘obtaining a financial gain by deception‘, with the total quantum of the charges nearly $850,000. The charges related to allegations of false representations our client had made when applying for his first role as a teacher at a Melbourne private school in the 1970s. The client used his father’s teaching registration number in his job application. He thereby purported to be fully ‘qualified’ and ‘registered’ as a teacher. Relying on these representations, the client went on to have a distinguished career in teaching over many decades. He never went on to obtain a tertiary qualification.
The matter was listed in the committal stream in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court due to the quantum of the deceptions totalling more than $100,000. Upon review of the hand-up brief of evidence, with a legal team including experienced counsel, the client was advised to plead guilty at the earliest opportunity to achieve the strongest discount in a sentence to be imposed.
The matter was committed to the County Court for a plea hearing. Tom was then tasked with obtaining plea material to assist counsel with the plea. After briefing dozens of past students, friends and relatives of the client, and a forensic psychologist for an assessment of the client, we demonstrated to the presiding judge that this was an exceptional case, both as to the offence and the offender. With the quantum of deception sitting at around $850,000, the starting point for sentence would usually be immediate imprisonment.
The crux of the plea was that the client performed at a high level in his vocation and that, in turn, it was essentially a victimless crime. It was further submitted that the significant delay caused by the prosecution was heavily mitigatory. The references from past students were particularly powerful, with one such high achiever describing our client as the ‘best teacher she ever had’. The presiding judge agreed with this assessment and sentenced the client to a community corrections order.
2. Good behaviour bond - Obtaining property by deception
Our client was charged with ‘obtaining property by deception‘ at just over $40,000. The charges were related to allegations that the client had altered the bank details of numerous transactions whilst working in the accounts department, so her employer paid an unknown entity instead of the appropriate client. The evidence was overwhelming, and the client instructed that she had, in fact, engaged in the deceptions. However, the circumstances of the deception were critically important to explain to the presiding magistrate.
The client was the victim of an offshore scam and thereafter blackmailed online by someone who purported to be an Indonesian police officer, who initially told her he would track down the scammer—the blackmail related to threats against the client’s parents, who resided in Indonesia. The scammer had knowledge of her parents’ addresses, making the threats seem real to the client. The client had proof that she had transferred nearly $400,000 to this online source over three years. The offending occurred when the client ran out of her own personal funds and, in a desperate act, transferred her employer’s money to this online source.
The matter was originally booked for a Contest Mention at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, as the duress defence was being put forth to prosecutions. On a sentence indication, the magistrate suggested a good behaviour bond with non-conviction would be appropriate in all of the circumstances, considering the evidence put forth by the defence concerning the client’s story. Sensibly, the client accepted the sentence indication, in what was considered a great result, in circumstances where a defence of duress was unlikely to succeed.
3. Charges withdrawn - 3 x Reckless conduct endangering serious injury
Our client was charged with three counts of ‘reckless conduct endangering serious injury‘. For the prosecution to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, they needed to satisfy all elements of the charge. In this particular case, the client was the passenger in a car driven by his partner on the way home from a trip away. His partner was driving under the influence of marijuana, heavy-footed and in a bad state of mind. Our client repeatedly told his partner to slow down and expressed his concern. In a last-ditch effort to avert the danger, he pulled up the handbrake, as he believed this would slow down the car, given his knowledge that a handbrake is an emergency brake. The unfortunate result was the car skidding out of control on a highway at 100km/h and a car accident with two other road users.
The defence relied upon element 4 of the charge not being made out by the prosecution. This element requires the accused to have foreseen that the probable consequence of his conduct was injury to the persons or that there was an appreciable risk of serious injury, that he displayed indifference to whether serious injury could occur, and nevertheless engaged in the conduct. In basic terms, we relied upon the argument that our client lacked the requisite intent, or mens rea, to commit the offence.
The prosecution refused to withdraw the charges or accept our argument at the Contest Mention stage at the Frankston Magistrates’ Court; however, the presiding magistrate on the day agreed with the defence and made remarks to suggest ‘just because the accused has committed a stupid act, does not necessarily mean it is a criminal act’. The prosecution duly (and begrudgingly) withdrew all charges as a result, and the case was dismissed, preserving the client’s unblemished criminal record.
4. Community corrections order - Multiple serious driving offences
Our client was charged with multiple driving offences, including ‘dangerous driving causing serious injury‘, ‘driving in a manner dangerous‘, ‘conduct endangering life‘ and ‘driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor‘.
The matter was listed in the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court in the summary stream. The circumstances were that the client had engaged in heavy drinking before getting behind the wheel of his car and attempting to drive home. On his journey, the client engaged in extremely dangerous driving, reaching speeds in excess of 140km/h in an 80km/h speed zone. The client lost control of his vehicle, crashing into another vehicle and, unfortunately, injuring the driver.
After reviewing the brief, it was identified that the informant had erred in charging the client. The matter should really have been listed in the committal stream. It, therefore, took careful management of the matter to keep it in the summary stream. A ‘less is best’ approach was taken at the summary case conference, and we successfully kept the matter in the summary stream by not alerting the prosecution to the deficiencies in the police brief. A plea hearing was conducted, and the client was extremely lucky only to receive a Community Corrections Order for the offending.
5. Sexual exposure - charges reduced
Our client was charged with ‘sexual exposure‘. In a very sensitive case, the client was in the process of undergoing a gender transformation and identified as female. She had been exercising in female shorts as a part of this transition. It was alleged that the client intentionally exposed her genitals to a female who was exercising along the same path in a park. The client vehemently denied the allegation, instructing us that her genitals had unfortunately fallen out of the exercise shorts. Therefore, our argument was that there was no intent.
The matter was pushed to a Contest Mention at Frankston Magistrates’ Court. After summary case conferencing the matter at length, the prosecution agreed to amend the charge to obscene exposure under the Summary Offences Act.
A sentence indication was run, and our client accepted the indication, importantly being spared a conviction and given only a small fine. This was considered a great result. The client thereby avoided a sex offence being registered in her criminal history, as well as the potential to be placed on the sex offender’s registry. It also saved the matter from running to a contested hearing, where the complainant would have needed to come to court to testify, and extremely personal aspects of our client’s life would have been ventilated across a lengthy hearing.