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Life-changing courtroom experience leads to career in criminal law

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Standing in the Children’s Court, Fintan Roberts felt overwhelmed by shame and regret. It was late 2014 and the young student was facing a charge of disorderly behaviour in a public place after a night out in Perth.

“The proceedings were a sobering experience,” Roberts recalls. “It was an important moment that triggered a major turning point in my life.”

“At the time, I wasn’t sure what kind of person I wanted to be – or where I was headed. I was lost and confused. But on that day, it became obvious.

“Law was my true calling – and it became my lifeline.”

The moment was so profound that Roberts, who was studying digital design at the time, switched his course for Curtin’s Bachelor of Laws.

“That day in court I saw quite clearly that many did not have the same opportunities as me.  I decided I would dedicate my life to the practice of criminal law as an advocate, to empower and provide a voice to people interacting with the criminal justice system.

“I took my first law unit in 2016 and haven’t looked back.”

Studying law at Curtin bolstered and sharpened his focus and passion.

“Through my degree I was able to intern at the Magistrates Court in Perth where I had the honour of assisting learned magistrates. The experience sharpened my research skills, enhanced my attention to detail and gave me a greater understanding of the law and court procedures.”

An international perspective

Roberts’ law degree saw him travel from Perth to the European Union Commission in Brussels.

“I was lucky enough to participate in the Ghent Summer Program in 2018,” he enthuses. “The experience was phenomenal – both as a learning exercise, and an incredible and unforgettable social trip. I can’t recommend the program enough.”

As part of the exchange, Roberts and his fellow Curtin students travelled to London, England, northern France and Ghent in Belgium, learning European law, immersing themselves in local culture and visiting high-profile institutions.

“While in London, we attended lectures on the geopolitical and economic forces of Brexit from both a European point of view and a British perspective,” he explains. “It was a really enriching exercise.”

“We also delved into European law and examined how different elements could be used and incorporated in Australia. It was a rigorous but academically satisfying way to blend our international learning with how we view and critique contemporary legal issues in Australia.”

But for Roberts, the experience was not purely academic.

“We were there during the two-week Ghent festival,” Roberts smiles. “It was a real highlight of the trip! There were multiple performances each night, beer gardens, friendly locals and incredible food all bundled up as part of the festival.”

A career in criminal law

Just six years after attending his own court hearing, Roberts now finds himself supporting others in a similar position. As a criminal lawyer for a Perth law firm, the passionate graduate says he has developed an even greater appreciation for advocacy and providing access to justice.

“Interacting with the criminal justice system can be an intimidating and stressful experience for clients and may lead to severe consequences, including imprisonment,” Roberts says.

“I do everything in my power to ensure they are given passionate, accurate and competent representation.”

“Access to justice is not only necessary ethically, but is vital in ensuring that the administration of justice in our legal system is consistent and fair.”

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