Related content: Editorial - Justice delays put enormous stress on victims
January 13, 2014, started as a typical day for me. By the end of it, I’d realised my husband was a monster. Then began a horrifying nightmare that engulfed me, my two daughters and my whole family. It was the soul-destroying actions of a vile predator that led to our lives becoming a legal living hell.
When you've been married for 12 years, you don’t imagine that your husband is drugging you at night so he can abuse your daughter without you knowing. But my husband, Timothy James Stewart, was. No doctors could explain why I felt so unbelievably tired all the time.
He was drugging Alice, too, and sexually assaulting her. She was only 12. Over four years he groomed her and sexually abused her.
Then he tried his filthy behaviour on my younger daughter, Sally. She wrote us a letter blowing the whistle on him, but he destroyed it before I saw it.
On that fateful day in January, he complained that Alice wouldn’t call him Dad anymore. (He was her stepfather.) When I told her he deserved her respect, she said, “You don’t know him. You have no idea who he really is.”
The minute she said it, I knew. A pit opened up in my stomach. I told him, “Everything she says, points to you being inappropriate with her.” He took off without saying a word and that’s the last I saw of him until court. He was arrested that night in the Blue Mountains.
Because of the legal living hell my life became for the next four years, I do have times where I wish I’d found him and, instead of taking the legal route, pushed him off a cliff.
I remember the detective telling us the case would take two years and I said, “No way.” I would gladly take two years now because it took double that.
I live in south-western Sydney, which is over an hour’s drive from either Paramatta or Wollongong – the closest sittings of the Family Court.
I would organise my kids, take time off work, and spend three hours of my day getting to and from court – only to find that the hearing was put off for another six weeks.
The criminal case started at Campbelltown Local Court when he was facing only 12 charges. But the police discovered his stash of memory cards with 99 more incidents of abuse that he had filmed for his disgusting sexual gratification, and the case was moved to the Sydney District Court. After that, I had to travel there, which took even longer.
There were constant legal delays. Meanwhile, I was trying to keep my family together as a single mum, working to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. But I had to take so much time off, my work contract wasn’t renewed.
In November 2017, after I had waited four long years for justice, 45-year-old Timothy James Stewart was finally convicted and sentenced to 32 years in prison. May he rot in jail for his crimes.
To get justice took me at least 30 weeks of my time over four years. It was incredibly stressful for me and my family. I feel I need to speak out. I live in this rapidly growing part of Sydney but we have to rely on outdated courts, hours away from us, that are overflowing with cases of their own.
For this reason, I am writing in support of a campaign to build a South-West Sydney Justice Precinct, spearheaded by the Law Society of NSW and backed by the Greater Sydney Commission, the NSW Police Association, the Campbelltown, Liverpool, Camden and Wollondilly councils, the Chamber of Commerce and the Camden Region Economic Taskforce.
Sydney's second international airport is scheduled to open in 2026, by which time the population south of the airport is expected to grow to 900,000. By 2036, it is expected to reach 1.1 million people – almost the size of Adelaide.
I don't want them to suffer the living hell that my family and I endured. They say justice delayed is justice denied. I was denied justice for far too long because of the lack of court facilities in south-western Sydney. It need not keep happening.