Charges: Assault occasioning actual bodily harm x 1; Intentionally and unlawfully choking a person so as to render that person insensible or unconscious x 1.
Case type: Sentence.
Facts: The defendant headbutted his wife, causing her to become unconscious. He tightly wrapped a piece of rope around her neck, causing her to again become unconscious. She had lost control of her bodily functions and urinated (). The incident occurred in 2013. The complainant was unwilling to provide a statement previously, because she wanted to continue in her relationship with the defendant ().
The defendant pleaded guilty to the charges ().
Issues: Sentence to be imposed.
Decision and Reasoning: The defendant was sentenced to 2 years and 9 months’ imprisonment, wholly suspended (). Mitigating factors included the defendant’s: pleas of guilty; limited criminal history; childhood trauma; mental health issues; and engagement in psychological services (). Burns J considered that the defendant had very good prospects for rehabilitation ().
Charges: Blackmail x 1; Stalking x 1.
Case type: Sentence.
Facts: The defendant and complainant were in a relationship for 2 years. They sometimes filmed consensual sex (-). After the relationship broke down, the defendant sent the complainant emails and text messages threatening to release the video unless the complainant paid him $20,000 (-). The complainant obtained a protection order, and the defendant breached the order three times ().
Issues: Sentence to be imposed.
Decision and Reasoning: Elkaim J remarked on the seriousness of the blackmail in the context of a domestic relationship at : ‘blackmail of the type involved in this case must be regarded as serious. This is not so much because of the amount of money demanded but because it involved a threat to breach the privacy of a relationship and to cause severe embarrassment to the complainant’. While the defendant had promising prospects of rehabilitation and had taken steps to reduce his consumption of illicit drugs, Elkiam J considered that a period of imprisonment was necessary ([21-). The defendant was sentenced to a head sentence of 9 months’ imprisonment, to be served concurrently with 6 months’ imprisonment for stalking .
Justice Elkaim remarked on the seriousness of the blackmail in the context of a domestic relationship at : ‘blackmail of the type involved in this case must be regarded as serious. This is not so much because of the amount of money demanded but because it involved a threat to breach the privacy of a relationship and to cause severe embarrassment to the complainant’.
Charges: Making a false accusation x 3; Public mischief x 6.
Appeal type: Appeal against conviction.
Facts: The defendant and ‘EK’ had been in a relationship. After the relationship had ended, the defendant made allegations to the police that EK had sexually assaulted her, had followed her in his car, and had broken into her house (-). The police made investigations, but eventually determined that the accusations were false ().
At trial, the prosecution relied upon the following evidence to show the defendant’s tendency to make false complaints: the fact that there were many allegations supported the inference that each one was false; a complaint of sexual assault made by the defendant against a neighbour when she was 17; and three other allegations made by the defendant against EK’s family (, ). The defendant was convicted of two counts of making a false accusation and three counts of public mischief (for wasting police officers’ time). She had not yet been sentenced.
Issues: One issues was whether the Magistrate correctly applied tendency evidence.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was partially upheld. Justice Refshauge found that the Magistrate applied the tendency evidence incorrectly for two reasons.
Note: this case was subsequently remitted to the Magistrates Court for retrial before a different Magistrate, see Parkinson v Alexander (No 2)  ACTSC 290 (9 October 2017).
Charges: Murder x 1; Recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm x 1; Assault occasioning actual bodily harm x 1; Contravene protection order.
Case type: Sentence.
Facts: The defendant and the deceased had formerly been in a domestic relationship and had a child together (). The deceased had taken out a domestic violence order (DVO) against the defendant the day before the defendant killed her (-). When the defendant received the order, he bought an axe, drove to the deceased house and cut her neck with the axe, severing her spine. She was holding his newborn child at the time, and her two sons were in the same room (-). The axe severed her sister’s finger, which formed the basis of the grievous bodily harm charge. He then assaulted her brother, which formed the basis of the assault occasioning bodily harm charge (-).
Issues: Sentence to be imposed. The defendant raised the mitigating factor of diminished responsibility.
Decision and Reasoning: Burns J described the objective circumstances of the murder ‘within the worst category of cases of murder, and would warrant a term of life imprisonment’ .
Burns J said at  ‘For many years now, the courts of this country have spoken of the need to protect members of the community, and particularly women, from domestic violence, and the need for courts to take seriously offences of domestic violence. If these statements are to have meaning, if the protection offered by the [Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act 2008 (ACT)] is to have significance, it is incumbent on courts to recognise the heinousness of offences of violence committed in retribution for a member of the community invoking the protection provided by the Act.’
His Honour took into account as mitigating factors the defendant’s plea of guilty, his experience of abuse as a child, and his long history of mental health issues (). Other contributing factors included his use of anabolic steroids, methylamphetamines and a personality disorder, but his Honour did not place significant weight on these circumstances (). His Honour also had regard to victim impact statements tendered by the deceased’s family (-). His Honour concluded (at ):
‘The present offence of murder was vicious and cowardly. Those who witnessed your violence will have to live with their memories for the rest of their lives. Your actions deprived three children of their mother, including your own infant daughter Ayla. You have effectively deprived Ayla of both of her parents. The effects of your actions will be felt for decades to come. There is a very substantial community interest in retribution, deterrence and punishment. This can only be achieved by a very substantial period of imprisonment.’
His Honour imposed a sentence of 32 years and 2 months’ imprisonment.
Hearing: Breach of good behaviour order.
Facts: In 2012, Mr Ennis was involved in an altercation with his female partner of 27 years. He was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and was subject to a good behaviour order for 2 years with a condition to perform 100 hours of unpaid community service work. In 2014, Mr Ennis breached this order by failing to perform the community service work (‘the first breach’). The good behaviour order was extended by 12 months and Mr Ennis ordered to perform 108 hours of community service work (See R v Ennis  ACTSC 369 (4 November 2014)).
However, before the end of the good behaviour order in 2015, Mr Ennis breached the order again (‘the second breach’). Mr Ennis and his partner, who had been drinking alcohol, argued outside their house. Mr Ennis pulled her by her hair and dragged her inside. He let her go and slammed the door in her face (common assault). In March 2016, a magistrate sentenced Mr Ennis to 5 months imprisonment, suspended immediately, and made a good behaviour order for 18 months with various conditions. His Honour then referred the matter to Refshauge J for breach of the good behaviour order that had been extended upon Mr Ennis’ first instance of breach.
Issue/s: Whether further action is warranted in light of Mr Ennis’ breach of a good behaviour order.
Decision and Reasoning: While Mr Ennis complied with nearly 2 years of the original good behaviour order without breach constituted by further offence and nearly 9 months of the additional period ordered by Refshauge J, Mr Ennis had failed at his attempts at rehabilitation. This offending was also facilitated by the consumption of alcohol. Further, the nature of offending was serious. Per Refshauge J, ‘It is, as his Honour Magistrate Morrison said, a family violence offence, and it is serious in that it was the commission of the offence against the same victim, although many years apart. It is a similar offence also, in that it is an assault and another family violence assault. Nevertheless, it is a much less serious version of the offence, although in this case, because of the earlier history, it attracted a sentence of imprisonment, although suspended’. It was relevant that Mr Ennis’ partner had moved away and it was unlikely that the relationship would resume in the near future (See -). Accordingly, the duration of the good behaviour order was extended to 2 years to run from the date of this decision.
Hearing: Application for evidence to be given by audio visual link from a location outside the courtroom.
Facts: The accused, BNS, pleaded not guilty to 2 counts of incest and 5 counts of committing an act of indecency on TN. At the time of offence, BNS was in a relationship with SN, the mother of TN, and was the step father to TN. SN was called to give evidence at trial. She was expected to give evidence of complaint made by TN and relationship evidence (of her and the child’s relationship with BNS).
Here, an application was made for SN to give evidence by audio visual link from a remote location. BNS was physically abusive to SN during the relationship. SN said she had ongoing anxiety and depression which would inhibit her ability to give her best evidence if she was required to give evidence in the courtroom. In light of the history of family violence, she felt intimidated in front of BNS. Finally, BNS also had a conviction for intimidating a witness.
SN did not have the right to give evidence by audio visual link from a remote location under Part 4 of the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act because she was not a child, complainant, or a similar fact witness. In the absence of statutory provision, it was noted that there is no power at common law for a court to allow evidence to be heard by video link: R v Hampson  EWCA Crim 1569. However, s 32 of the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act empowered the court to direct a person to give evidence by audio visual link from a remote location.
Issue/s: Whether the application to give evidence outside the courtroom via audio visual link should be allowed under s 32 of the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.
Decision and Reasoning: The application was allowed as the pre-conditions set out in s 32 were met. First, the necessary facilities were available (See ). Second, the evidence could be more conveniently given from a remote location by video link. SN’s aversion to the accused would make it more convenient for her to give evidence remotely. It was also more convenient for the court to have the evidence given free of the inhibitions troubling SN (See -). Finally, BNS did not object to SN giving evidence remotely and, accordingly, it could not be said that it would be unfair to the accused for SN to give evidence remotely. Although the general rule is that prosecution witnesses should give evidence in the presence of the accused, it was noted that there have been numerous past occasions where the giving of evidence by video link has not been unfair (See -). Further, there were no discretionary matters requiring the application to be refused (See -).
Hearing: Breach of a good behaviour order.
Facts: Mr Curtis assaulted his female partner by punching her a number of times, causing her bruising. He was charged with assault occasioning bodily harm. In October 2013, Refshauge J sentenced Mr Curtis to 12 months imprisonment, wholly suspended, and imposed a good behaviour order with a probation condition for 2 years (See R v Curtis  ACTSC 291 (16 December 2013)). In April 2015, within the period of the good behaviour order, Mr Curtis was found in possession of a number of electronic and other items reasonably suspected of being stolen. In December 2015, he pleaded guilty in the Magistrates Court and was sentenced to a further good behaviour order for 18 months with a community service condition. The magistrate referred the breach of the earlier imposed good behaviour obligations to the Supreme Court.
Issue/s: Whether further action is warranted in light of Mr Curtis’ breach of a good behaviour order.
Decision and Reasoning: The offence subject of the breach was of a different character and less serious to the offence that Mr Curtis was originally sentenced for. This offending was not part of a life of serious criminal offending but a stupid criminal offence prompted by his perceived necessity. Mr Curtis had otherwise complied with the good behaviour order. His Honour was satisfied that this justified re-sentencing Mr Curtis rather than imposing the suspended sentence (See -).
In re-sentencing Mr Curtis, Refshauge J noted the need for general deterrence because the original offence was of family violence. He further noted that ‘Vindication of the victim is always important in family violence offences and, again, the expression of the court's displeasure with the offending by the imposition of imprisonment will meet that objective’ (See ). His Honour further noted Mr Curtis’ youth, his employment, and the birth of his child into a stable relationship (absent any family violence) (See -). Mr Curtis was re-sentenced to 12 months imprisonment to commence from 15 August 2015 (to take into account pre-sentence custody), wholly suspended. His Honour further imposed a good behaviour order for 18 months with probation conditions and a community service condition.
Note: the defendant subsequently breached his good behaviour order (although the breach was not related to further domestic and family violence) and was re-sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, wholly suspended (see R v Curtis (No 3)  ACTSC 101 (27 April 2017).
Charge/s: Recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm.
Hearing: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: After arguing with his brother, Mr Williams chased his brother down the street. He caught up with his brother and hit him with a guitar, rendering him unconscious. Mr Williams’ brother was found to have a depressed skull fracture and a haematoma on his brain. He underwent surgery and spent three weeks in hospital before being moved to a rehabilitation facility.
Decision and Reasoning: This was a serious offence, especially because it involved family violence. The offence was not premeditated but was aggravated because it took place at a time when Mr Williams was already subject to a NSW good behaviour order made in connection with an earlier family violence offence (against Mr Williams’ former partner). Further, Mr Williams tried to minimise his actions. The injuries sustained by his brother were quite serious (See -). Penfold J also had regard to Mr Williams’ subjective circumstances including his extensive criminal history (See -). He noted that Mr Williams had attended some anger management and drug and alcohol programs but these had not had an effective rehabilitative impact (See -).
In terms of general deterrence, His Honour noted, ‘This is an offence of a kind that requires general deterrence, and in some cases at least, general deterrence may be effective. I note defence counsel's comment that general deterrence in relation to the grievous bodily harm offence is particularly relevant in relation to “glassing” offences, but I consider that deterring violence within the family is at least as important as deterring alcohol-fuelled violence between strangers or acquaintances’ (See ). Personal deterrence was also relevant on the facts (See ). Penfold J sentenced Mr Williams to three years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 18 months.
Charge/s: Assault occasioning actual bodily harm, causing grievous bodily harm.
Hearing: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: After consuming a significant quantity of alcohol, Mr Pikula, a man with Aboriginal and Tongan ancestry, began arguing with his step-brother (Mr Mapa). Another step-brother, Mr King, tried to intervene but was stabbed with a knife in the back of his thigh by Mr Pikula (assault occasioning actual bodily harm). The following evening, Mr Pikula again became highly intoxicated and argued with Mr Mapa. He stabbed Mr Mapa twice in the back. The knife wounds punctured his lung (grievous bodily harm).
Decision and Reasoning: Refshauge J sentenced Mr Pikula to 22 months imprisonment for assault occasioning actual bodily harm and 27 months imprisonment for causing grievous bodily harm (cumulative). His Honour also recommended that a condition of Mr Pikula’s parole would include a requirement that he undergo treatment and counselling for alcohol abuse. In imposing this sentence, Refshauge J noted the importance of both general deterrence and specific deterrence (in light of his violent criminal record). The offending was serious here and warranted denunciation. While it had some association with alcohol, which may provide some opportunity for rehabilitation, this could not be said to overwhelm the other purposes of sentencing. His Honour also had regard to Mr Pikula’s troubled childhood and his long history of alcohol abuse.
At , ‘There can be no doubt that one of the marks of a civilised society is that its members can be protected from violence in their lives. While there can, of course, be no guarantee of such protection, nevertheless, the community expects that appropriate steps will be taken to maximise such protection. This is especially true of the need for safety within the family’.
Charge/s: Act of indecency without consent, assault with intent to engage in sexual intercourse.
Hearing: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: The male offender and the female complainant were married. They had been in a relationship for 17 years and had 3 children. The offender and the complainant had been drinking alcohol together when the offender requested oral sex. The complainant declined and went to bed. Five minutes later the offender walked into the bedroom and demanded the complainant perform oral sex on him. She refused repeatedly and started crying. The offender said, ‘Do you think your crying is going to get you what you want? It’s your job to do it’. He then took all his clothes off and positioned himself on top of the complainant. She pushed the offender off but he continued to talk angrily. The offender then dragged the complainant across the bed and pushed her head close to his penis. He tried to slap her twice but was blocked by the complainant. She fell off the bed, hurting her head. The offender continued to demand oral sex. He pinned her down on the bed and yelled, ‘You need to suck me off, it’s not about love or intimacy’. The complainant, crying, pleaded for him to let her go and the offender replied ‘What can you do about it?’ The offender then became upset and the complainant called the police.
Decision and Reasoning: These offences were objectively serious. The assault lasted almost an hour and included physical and mental abuse. Robinson AJ noted, ‘I take into account the fact that prior sexual relationship is relevant in assessing the seriousness of sexual assault. Here it is not a sexual assault by an unknown stranger which would give rise to extreme terror in the mind of the complainant’ (See ). His Honour also took into account a number of subjective circumstances. There had been some measure of reconciliation between the offender and the complainant. While these events were not an isolated incident of abuse and this mitigated the leniency that could otherwise have been shown in this case, the offender had taken opportunities to assist himself and took responsibility for his offending (See -).
In sum, His Honour noted: ‘I have come to the view that only a sentence of imprisonment is appropriate to the level of offending in this case. There is a need to punish this offending and to send a clear message by way of general deterrence to others that participation in sexual behaviour is a matter of choice not subjugation. I have also determined to deal with the offending as if it were only one transaction and impose concurrent sentences’ at . The offender was sentenced to one year and nine months on the charge of unlawful assault and seven months imprisonment for an act of indecency. These sentences were wholly suspended upon the offender entering a good behaviour order for three years.
Charges: Assault occasioning actual bodily harm (two counts), damaging property, engaging in sexual intercourse without consent (two counts)
Facts: The offender and the victim were in a relationship. After drinking three bottles of wine one night, the offender smashed a bottle and jar because ‘he was angry’. The victim decided to stay at her mother’s house and that it was best to take the offender’s car keys. When she went to get them, the offender grabbed her by her hair, threw her to the ground, stood over her, stomped on her face and chest and punched her a number of times. During the attack, the offender told the victim ‘This is what you get for lying to me’ and threatened to kill her. He then put his hands around her neck and tried to strangle her (count 1). When the victim tried to phone someone for help, the offender snapped her mobile in half (count 2). About 15 minutes after the initial attack had ended, the offender grabbed the victim by the back of her neck, smashed a mug over her head and hit her multiple times with the smashed mug. After the mug broke, he went to get another mug and again hit her, causing a large laceration to the victim’s head (count 3). After the victim had a shower, the offender told her ‘Now that I have done that to you, we are going to do everything my way from now on. It is not your way, it is going to be my way, okay.’ He then put his penis into the victim’s mouth despite her resisting and turning her head away (count 4) and forced her legs apart and had sexual intercourse with her (count 5).
The next morning the offender asked the victim what had happened. When she told him and asked to be taken to the hospital, he refused until later that day. The offender later apologised to the victim and told her, ‘If you tell the police then we will not see each other again’.
In relation to this conduct the offender was charged and pleaded guilty to two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm (counts 1 and 3), one count of damaging property (count 2) and two counts of engaging in sexual intercourse without consent (counts 4 and 5).
Issue: What sentence the offender should receive.
Decision and reasoning: Refshauge ACJ began his judgement by emphasising the seriousness of domestic violence and the considerations relevant to sentencing offenders: ‘Domestic violence is a scourge in the Australian community. It has become so problematic that significant efforts are being made at the Federal, State and Territory levels to address it. Clearly, the courts have a part to play in denouncing such conduct and making it clear that in a civilised society it is completely unacceptable. In sentencing offenders who commit domestic violence against their partners, the courts must use the objectives to be achieved in sentencing: general deterrence, specific deterrence, accountability of the offender and vindication of the victim, as well as denouncing the conduct. Nevertheless, at all times a sentence for any criminal offence must be appropriate to the circumstances of the offence and proportionate to the criminality of the offence and the culpability of the offender’ (-).
The offender had a long history of alcohol abuse and alcohol related violence. He had previously been convicted of a violent assault on his previous partner, two offences of drink driving and driving while disqualified. While in custody, the offender completed the SMART Recovery Program and First Steps to Anger Management Program to address his alcohol abuse and violence. He also accepted that he had an alcohol problem and expressed remorse about the offending and its impact on the victim.
References about the offender were provided by his employer (he was employed as a wards person in a hospital), his brother-in-law and his pastor. All three references described him as a respectful and caring person of good character. His brother-in-law and pastor also commented on the positive changes the offender made while in custody. He developed his faith in God, was obedient and respectful of authority, enjoyed the education and rehabilitation programs available and was very remorseful about his conduct in harming the victim. The victim also prepared a victim impact statement in which she expressed her continued serious emotional trauma and its impact on all areas of her life including friends, family, work and finances.
The offending was very serious with the whole of the events constituting a ‘brutal, extended attack on a victim which not only left her with physical scars but with social and mental scars that will last for some considerable time’ (). The facts the assaults occurred in the context of a domestic relationship and the victim suffered injuries were aggravating factors. The circumstances in which the property was damaged also made the offence more serious: ‘To deny a victim of a brutal assault the opportunity to gain assistance would have increased the terror she must have experienced and has aggravated the offence’ (). The sexual assaults violated the victim’s integrity and were a serious intrusion into her personal life despite occurring in the context of a domestic relationship.
In sentencing, Refshauge ACJ emphasised the need for special and general deterrence to denounce the offences committed by the offender. While the offender had taken positive steps in rehabilitation, this could not overbear the other purposes of sentencing. Rather, it was taken into account in setting the non-parole period. The seriousness of the offending meant that imprisonment was the only appropriate sentence. After considering the principle of totality and ensuring the offender was not punished twice, Refshauge ACJ sentenced him to a total sentence of six years’ imprisonment, backdated for the time already spent in custody. A non-parole period of three years and three months was also ordered. The total sentence comprised of:
Charge/s: Breach of a domestic violence order.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The appellant had been in an ‘off and on relationship’ with the female victim for 10 years. A Domestic Violence Order was made in favour of the victim against the appellant. Subsequently, one evening between 9.13pm and 10.04pm, the appellant made 10 telephone calls to the victim. He left one message saying: ‘You wait cunt. Your house is smashed and that fucking cunt you’re rooting. I am going to kill that cunt’. The appellant pleaded guilty at the first reasonable opportunity to the breach and was sentenced to a period of imprisonment of 22 months with a non-parole period of 15 months.
Issue/s: One of the grounds of appeal was that the sentence was manifestly excessive.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was upheld. The offence was very serious but the objective circumstances did not warrant a term of imprisonment of 22 months. As per Robinson AJ: ‘Significantly, there was no face to face confrontation, no infringement of the prohibition to be on the property of or within 100 metres of Ms BC and no weapon was involved. Ms BC did not answer the telephone calls’. His Honour referred to R v Loulanting  ACTSC 172 as being a factually similar case. His Honour acknowledged that compliance with any type of protection order is essential to protect members of the community from violence and anti-social behaviour. It is therefore open to the Court to impose a stern penalty to achieve this end. However, the punishment must still be proportionate to the offending and here this could not be said to be the case (See -, -).
The appellant was re-sentenced to 14 months imprisonment. Robinson AJ stated: ‘In my view substantial weight should be accorded, in the circumstances of this case, to deterring the offender and others from committing the same offence. His conduct was a defiance of the orders of the Court. This was by no means the first such defiance. There is value in our society upholding all orders of Courts. There could be said to be even more value in upholding protection orders in the context of the role that protection orders now play in our society in all jurisdictions’ at .
Charge/s: Common assault, damage to property.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The appellant and his former female partner had four children together. They separated two months prior to the offending but the appellant had been staying at the family home for a week prior to the offences. On 6 November 2014 at about 11pm, the appellant banged on his former partner’s window demanding she wake up. She let him in and went back to bed (where her 5 year old daughter was sleeping). The appellant went to the bedroom and punched a hole in the door. He started yelling and abusing his former partner. Despite the cries of the 5 year old daughter to stop, the appellant restrained his former partner and started hitting her. He woke up the couple’s 3 year old son. The appellant then hit the bedroom door several more times and started yelling again. The couple’s 13 year old daughter called the police. The appellant was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for common assault and 6 months imprisonment for damage to property, suspended after 8 months. The appellant had previously been convicted for offences of assault against his former partner in 2006 and 2012. These offences were also committed under the influence of alcohol.
Issue/s: The sentence was manifestly excessive.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was dismissed. First, the sentencing magistrate did not fail to consider the possibility of part of the sentence being served by way of periodic detention. Second, although counsel submitted that the appellant had been compliant with bail conditions imposed in 2014 (namely, sobriety), the magistrate was entitled not to place any great weight on this consideration. This was particularly so given that the appellant had assaulted his former partner before under the influence of alcohol. Finally, counsel for the appellant submitted that previous assaults had been dealt with by a non-custodial sentence and to impose a sentence of full-time imprisonment for at least 8 months was an oversized incremental step. Robinson AJ stated: ‘The argument regarding the oversized incremental step is answered by the proposition that the courts dealing with the earlier assaults allowed leniency (perhaps too much) in a desire to rehabilitate the appellant. Further there is no sentencing principle that requires courts to impose sentences incrementally according to some upward scale’ (See ).
Charges: Damaging property, assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm
Facts: The offender was charged and pleaded guilty to damaging property for breaking a window in his partner’s house. He was convicted and sentenced to one month’s imprisonment. This conviction breached a good behaviour order that was made after he was convicted for assaulting his partner. He was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, wholly suspended upon complying with a good behaviour order for two years. The good behaviour order was cancelled as a result of the breach and the six months’ suspended sentence was imposed, but was ordered to be served concurrently with another term of imprisonment. The offender successfully appealed this sentence. A sentence of six months’ imprisonment wholly suspended on the condition of a 12-month good behaviour order was imposed on appeal. A good behaviour order for the offence of damaging property was also made.
The offender was subsequently convicted of traffic offences, constituting a breach of both good behaviour orders. As a result, the good behaviour bond imposed for the offence of damaging property was extended for a further 12 months. He was also resentenced to six months’ imprisonment on the assault charge, suspended for a period of 12 months on the conditions of a further good behaviour order for 12 months and 80 hours of community service. This effectively increased the length of the good behaviour orders as well as requiring the offender to perform community service work.
The offender again breached these good behaviour bonds when he was convicted of assault occasioning bodily harm. This conviction arose when the offender choked his partner and threw a chest of drawers that hit her in the head. In relation to this offence, he was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, suspended after nine months with a good behaviour order for two years thereafter.
Issue: How should the offender be resentenced for the final breach of the two good behaviour orders?
Decision and reasoning:
The offender suffered a difficult childhood in which he was sexually abused and had great difficulties in school as a result of having ADHD and dyslexia. After leaving school at 14, he was homeless for many years. He also had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. The offender also suffered from various mental illnesses, including major depressive disorder, borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality traits, for which he was receiving treatment. He had a long criminal history with 122 offences on his criminal record. This reduced towards the time of offending in question and suggested his criminality was abating.
The final breach of the good behaviour orders was serious when considering ‘the offence was a family violence offence committed on a complainant who had been the victim of earlier offences of a similar type committed by [the offender], for which the current Good Behaviour Orders owe their genesis’ (). However, there was a need to take into account the offender’s mental health. Refshauge J considered that ‘the option for rehabilitation can be given greater prominence without minimising the need for some level of special and general deterrence’ ().
Refshauge J cancelled the good behaviour orders in accordance with s 110 of the Crimes (Sentence Administration) Act 2005 (ACT). The conviction of assault occasioning actual bodily harm was confirmed. The offender was convicted to six months’ imprisonment, wholly suspended for a period of two years. A good behaviour order was made for two years with the conditions that the offender would be supervised, must complete 180 hours of community service, and must participate in the Detention Exit Community Mental Health Outreach Program for three months. The conviction for damaging property was also confirmed and the offender was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment, taking into account the time already spent in custody.
Refshauge J concluded by telling the offender, ‘If you are genuine in your efforts, the Court will support you in this, as I hope I have shown you, but if you are not, then you can expect further custodial sentences and a revolving door’ ().
For Refshauge J’s previous decision on appeal, see Guy v Anderson (No 2)  ACTSC 245.
Charges: Common assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, contravening a protection order, resisting a public official
Facts: When the offender returned home he tripped after his dogs walked in front of him. In front of his wife (the victim) and children, the offender became angry and started kicking the dogs. After the victim asked him to calm and stop hurting the animals, the offender punched her in the stomach (count 1). Approximately 10 minutes later when they were discussing the punch, the victim said ‘You grew up watching your dad hit your mum and now you think it’s okay to hit me too’. In response, the offender punched her again to the back of her head, causing her to fall to the ground. He then punched her twice more, kicked her in the head five times and stomped on her head. As a result, the victim suffered a large cut to her forehead requiring seven stitches and a bloody nose (count 2). Both children were present during this assault. When the offender was arrested by police he became aggressive, spat at one of the officers (count 3) and resisted the arrest (count 4). Approximately 3 months later a domestic violence order was made against the offender restraining him from engaging in conduct that constitutes domestic violence to the victim, including offensive, harassing or threatening conduct. The offender subsequently had an argument with the victim where he was abusive and threatening towards her (count 5). When someone attempted to intervene, the offender threatened to kick him. At the time this offence took place the offender was on bail for the previous 4 offences.
In relation to this conduct, the offender was charged and pleaded guilty to two counts of common assault (counts 1 and 3), one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm (count 2), one count of resisting a public official (count 4) and one count of contravening a protection order (count 5).
Issue: What sentence should be imposed.
Decision and reasoning:
In assessing the objective seriousness of the offences, Burns J took into account that the offender was significantly larger than the victim, that the offences occurred in the context of a domestic relationship and that the children were present during the attack. Burns J considered the offender’s conduct to be ‘cowardly, shameful and rightly characterised as criminal’ (). A victim impact statement was also prepared by the victim, explaining the trauma and anxiety the offences caused her and the children. Burns J noted that ‘As is so often the case in domestic violence offences, the long term burden of your violence will not only be felt by your wife, but also by your children’.
The offender’s childhood was marred by exposure to domestic violence and he ‘was disappointed in [his] actions and how [he] exposed [his] children to that type of domestic violence, which [he] despised as a child’ (). He had secure employment to return to after being released from custody. The offender had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues including suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. Due to these concerns, he was assessed as being at moderate risk of reoffending. However, Burns J noted that the offender had been attending numerous rehabilitation programs for his alcohol and drug abuse and was receiving treatment for his mental health issues. Expert psychologist reports noted that the offender’s behaviour was ‘strongly influenced by [his] background of mental health issues arising out of [his] traumatic childhood, particularly [his] ongoing complex post traumatic stress disorder’ and that he was unable to make calm or rational choices at the time of offending ().
The offender demonstrated a degree of remorse in his statements to psychologists and his guilty pleas. Therefore, the sentence was reduced by 25 per cent as a result of these early pleas. The offender’s mental illness was causally connected to his offending and to his abuse of alcohol. It also impaired his mental functioning at the time of the offences and reduced his moral culpability by impairing his ability to exercise appropriate judgement and make calm and rational choices. Full time imprisonment would have a deleterious effect on his mental health and prospects of rehabilitation. Burns J concluded that the need for general and specific deterrence should be moderate in light of the offender’s reduced culpability as a result of his mental illness.
Burns J convicted and sentenced the offender to:
Charges: Assault occasioning actual bodily harm, burglary and choking a person so as to render them insensible or unconscious
Facts: While on bail for previous offending, the accused allegedly entered his ex-partner’s (the victim) home and attacked her, placing his hand around her neck and squeezing until she felt light headed. At the time these offences were committed, the accused was subject to a protection order in favour of the victim. The breach of this order was a serious offence for the purposes of the Bail Act 1992 (ACT) (the Act) and therefore the presumption against bail did not apply to the accused. In order for bail to be granted, the court must have been satisfied that there were special and exceptional circumstances favouring the grant of bail under s 9D(2) of the Act.
Issue: Whether bail should be granted.
Decision and reasoning: Bail was not granted. The charge of contravening a protection order was ultimately withdrawn because of procedural issues relating to service. However, s 9D of the Act still applies where a person is on bail for a serious offence of which offence that person is acquitted. Therefore, the fact that the charge was withdrawn did not amount to special and exceptional circumstances in favour of granting bail. The accused allegedly committed very serious offences of family violence. He had a history of offending, having previously been convicted of two offences of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, four offences of assault, two offences of contravention of a protection order, numerous traffic offences including drink-driving offences and fives offences of failing to appear in accordance with a bail undertaking. He had also shown an unwillingness to obey and disrespect of court orders. Given the accused’s history and the real risk that he would not attend trial and reoffend, bail should not have been granted even if there were special and exceptional circumstances in favour of granting bail.
Charge/s: Threat to kill, breach of a protection order x 2.
Hearing: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: The offender was charged with and pleaded guilty to 2 counts of breaching a protection order (where the protected person was his former female partner) and making threats to kill. On 18 January 2015, the offender contacted the protected person, asking to see his son. She refused because he had been using ice and was acting aggressive and demanding. The offender then sent her a number of text messages that were indecent, offensive and aggressive. The protected person ignored these messages as he had sent similar messages in the past. However, the next day, the offender called again and left a voice mail and text messages threatening to kill her.
Decision and Reasoning: The offender was sentenced to a total sentence of 4 years imprisonment, including 12 months imprisonment for the breaches of the protection order and 2 years and 6 months imprisonment for the threat to kill. This sentence was appropriate in light of a number of factors. The offences required punishment and denunciation, and considerations of general and specific deterrence were also significant. Refshauge J accepted that the offender genuinely sought rehabilitation but noted that agencies the offender had been referred to in the past had had no significant impact on his behaviour. His Honour took into account the plea of guilty, the offender’s mental health and accepted that the offender felt remorseful (See -).
His Honour further took into account the seriousness of the offences, which were particularly concerning as they were committed in the context of family violence. First, the threat to kill was serious. The use of ice, earlier harassment and changed tone from the earlier conversation all showed the serious intent of the offender and the fear that this threat was likely to have had engendered in the victim. The fact that this offence was brought on by the use of ice was not a mitigating factor but Refshauge J took into the offender’s desire for rehabilitation and the, so far unsuccessful, attempts he had made at rehabilitation. The denial of access to his son also provided explanation for the offence but was not a mitigating factor in any way (See -). Second, the breaches of the protection order were also serious, albeit less serious than the threat to kill. The breaches were deliberate and intentional. While they were not the most serious versions of the offence, they were not made by personal approach, they were still serious as the contact was made over two days and was abusive and indecent (See -).
Refshauge J stated:
There is no doubt that the addiction to drugs creates significant problems for the community, as well as for the user and his or her family. When the drug is methylamphetamine, or ice, the violence that it also generates can create further problems, particularly if there are stressed family situations leading to family violence. When mental health issues are added to the situation, it creates great complexity in trying to deal with the multiple issues that arise (See ).
Charge/s: Recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm, burglary x 2, common assault x 2.
Hearing: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: On two occasions on one evening, the offender attended the residence of his former partner. On the first occasion, the offender entered through a window and engaged in a physical confrontation with his former partner’s boyfriend. The offender then left the premises. He returned later in the evening and picked up a knife from the kitchen. The offender started a physical confrontation with his former partner’s boyfriend. To protect himself, the victim placed his hand on the blade of the knife and sustained a serious injury to his hand.
Decision and Reasoning: On the burglary charges, the offender was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and 16 months imprisonment, with the balance suspended and a good behaviour order imposed. On the charge of recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm, the offender was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, wholly suspended upon entering into a good behaviour order. In imposing this sentence, Burns J took into a number of considerations that warranted greater punishment. His Honour noted that, ‘these offences [were] family violence offences and as such must be treated very seriously by [the] Court. [The] community views with great abhorrence the infliction of violence by people in family relationships’. It was also significant that the offences occurred in the victim’s own home. In mitigation, Burns J took into account the offender’s plea of guilty, the steps taken by the offender to address his alcohol abuse (which was a significant factor in all his offending), his remorse and general prospects for rehabilitation.
Order sought: Application for a domestic violence order (DVO).
Appeal type: Application for extension of time in which to bring an appeal from the decision of the Magistrates Court dismissing an application for a domestic violence order.
Facts: On 25 February 2014, the applicant applied for a DVO against her former male partner. Both parties were represented. The transcript of the proceedings extended over some 86 pages. The applicant gave evidence in chief of a number of incidents involving the applicant and her daughter being followed and stared at by the respondent, being grabbed and punched by the respondent, and the respondent sending threatening messages. Of particular relevance to the appeal, the applicant gave evidence of an incident that occurred on 1 December 2010 at the time of the couple’s separation. The applicant thought the respondent was overseas but he appeared in her house and dragged her into the hallway, sat on top of her, and smashed her head onto the floor (‘the December 2010 incident’). The next day the applicant made an application for housing assistance to the Commissioner for Social Housing stating that she was homeless and escaping violence from her partner.
On 27 May 2014, the magistrate found that the principal incidents of which the applicant gave evidence did not occur or did not constitute domestic violence. In particular, the magistrate was satisfied that the respondent was not in Australia on or about 1 December 2010 and he did not return until after the applicant had gone to the Commissioner for Social Housing. Although the applicant had been injured by someone at the time she went to the Commissioner for Social Housing, Her Honour was not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the respondent caused that injury.
The application for leave to appeal was not filed until 2 January 2015 (a period of 7 months delay). The applicant was prompted to lodge this appeal because of an adverse decision of a judge of the Federal Circuit Court on 18 December 2014. The decision of the Federal Circuit Court related to parental responsibility and living arrangements for the child of the applicant and the respondent. One of the reasons the applicant sought to overturn the decision of the Magistrates Court was that this decision had an impact on the findings and outcome in the Federal Circuit Court decision.
Issue/s: Whether the grounds of appeal have any reasonable prospect of success and whether the extension of time within which to appeal should be granted.
Decision and Reasoning: Mossop Ass J dismissed the application for an extension of time within which to appeal. His Honour accepted that, at least in relation to the December 2010 incident, there was a reasonably arguable ground of appeal based on documentary evidence presented to the Supreme Court on appeal. Essentially, this paperwork demonstrated that there was at least a possibility that the dates originally provided were incorrect and the respondent could have been in the country at the time of the incident (see -).
However, there were other factors telling against the grant of an extension of time: the length of time since the decision; the limited prospects of ultimately obtaining an order even if domestic violence was ultimately established; the interests of SX in not having a long finalised decision reopened; and the availability of protection under the Act if circumstances warrant it. The way in which the Federal Circuit Court relied on the findings and decision reached in the Magistrates Court was a matter of significant concern to the applicant but the correctness of the Federal Circuit Court’s approach and conclusions was a matter to be resolved in that appellate hierarchy (See -).
Note: this case was affirmed on appeal (see LE v SX  ACTCA 34)
Appeal type: Appeal against conviction and sentence.
Facts: The appellant and his former partner had commenced family law proceedings relating to parenting orders for their son. The appellant, a solicitor, was self-represented while his former partner (the complainant) was represented by a firm of solicitors and a barrister. While at the Federal Magistrates Court, the appellant knocked on the interview door where his former partner and her counsel (the solicitor, barrister and a law clerk) were conferring. He asked if they had considered his proposal. When he was told they would be another 10-15 minutes, the appellant replied ‘that’s not good enough’. The barrister attempted to close the door with her left wrist but the appellant forced it open and said, ‘who are you?’ in a raised voice. The barrister called security. 30 minutes later she complained of pain in her wrist. The appellant was charged with assault and pleaded not guilty. The magistrate found the charge proved and fined the appellant $100 and ordered the appellant to pay costs of $69, a criminal levy of $50 and a victim’s service levy of $10.
Issue/s: The appellant appealed against his conviction and sentence. The notice of appeal was nearly 70 pages long and contained many convoluted and repetitive grounds of appeal. Two relevant grounds were:
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal against conviction and the appeal against sentence were dismissed. First, one of the grounds in relation to the appeal against conviction was that the evidence given by the barrister, the solicitor, the law clerk and his former partner was tainted because they all had an ulterior motive i.e. to gain advantage in the family law proceedings. Refshauge J held that there was no evidence to support this allegation and stated, ‘the incident was reported to a security officer of the Commonwealth Law Courts promptly, the evidence of the various parties was not identical, usually a matter indicative of truth, because identical recollections of different witnesses, especially as to inessential facts, is often an indication of concoction and it is not explained what benefit [his former partner] would obtain from such a device’. Further, the allegation that the witnesses perjured themselves was unsustainable. The evidence given was corroborated by the CCTV footage and by the evidence of the other parties(See -).
Second, in relation to the appeal against sentence, the magistrate did not err in placing significance on the fact that the assault took place in a court building. Refshauge J stated, ‘while [the appellant] certainly possessed the right to be within the bounds of the court precinct, this is not an unlimited right and does not give him the right to assault other people. A court precinct is a place where people should be able to expect the law to be observed at all times’. Further, His Honour quoted from Grimshaw and Mann  ACTSC 189, ‘intermediate Courts of Appeal have regularly referred to the fact that violent offences committed in public are more serious’. However, this was not to state that assaults occurring in a private home are not serious (See -).
Note: this case was affirmed on appeal (see McElholum v Hughes  ACTCA 37 (29 September 2016)).
Charge/s: Aggravated burglary (armed and intent to cause harm).
Hearing: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: S left her male partner, the offender, to be in a relationship with another man (the victim). Thereafter, the offender sent many abusive and threatening text messages to S. On the morning of 26 May 2013, the intoxicated appellant drove to the victim’s house, where S was now living. He was carrying a 1.2 metre spirit level and a bag with an angle grinder, cable ties, electrical tape, a kitchen knife and a timber-handled holding knife. The offender used the spirit level to smash the window of the victim’s bedroom, where the victim and S were asleep. The victim asked the offender what he was there for to which the offender replied, ‘You know what I’m here for; I’m going to kill you’ and ‘You’re sleeping with my wife’. He continued to scream at the victim as the victim walked away. The offender then struck the victim with the spirit level on the left arm and left side of his head, causing significant lacerations. S tried to intervene as the offender punched the victim in the face, threatening to kill him. The police were called and the offender removed.
Decision and Reasoning: The offender was sentenced to 3 years and 1 month imprisonment with a non-parole period of 18 months. In imposing this sentence, Murrell CJ took into account a number of considerations. First, the offender had a history of taking the law into his own hands. He was on bail for common assault at the time of the offences and had previously committed offences of common assault. Second, Her Honour took into the offender’s subjective circumstances namely, the offender’s intention to ‘settle down’ by continuing his employment in the building industry and removing himself from his involvement in the Rebels Motorcycle Gang. However, she noted that it was surprising that someone at age 63 had not ‘learnt his lesson from a series of prior similar incidents’. Third, the objective circumstances were of at least moderate seriousness (See -). Finally, Her Honour took into account general sentencing considerations (See -).
Charges: Engaging in sexual intercourse without consent (3 counts), assault, assault with the intent of engaging in sexual intercourse, theft
Facts: The applicant and his wife (the victim) lived together for some time after migrating to Perth from Syria. While living in Perth, the victim left the applicant and moved into a refuge as a result of domestic violence in the relationship. After the applicant and victim reconciled, they moved to Canberra where their relationship remained volatile. One day the applicant went into the bedroom and had sexual intercourse with the victim, despite her asking him not to, attempting to push him away and crying throughout. Later in the day, the applicant verbally abused the victim and threatened to withdraw his immigration sponsorship of the victim’s family to come to Australia. He then again had intercourse with the victim, who continued to cry but otherwise did not move. The next day, the applicant slapped the victim and dragged her by her hair, rolled her on her back and again had intercourse with her. The victim continued to struggle, hitting the applicant’s chest and pushing him away. The applicant was charged with three counts of engaging in sexual intercourse without consent, one count of assault, one count of assault with the intent of engaging in sexual intercourse and one count of theft. He pleaded not guilty to each charge.
While in custody, the victim visited the applicant every two or three days. She subsequently made a statutory declaration that she was ‘a little tired and confused’ at the time of making her complaint to the police. She sought to change her statement that all sexual intercourse was consented to and that she had been drinking before the assault. The victim wrote a letter to the Court in respect of the bail application, in which she said she did not object to the applicant being granted bail. She also stated that she was not pressured into writing the letter, that the applicant was not harmful to the community, and that as a pregnant woman she did not want her child to grow up knowing their father was in gaol.
Issue: Whether bail should be granted.
Decision and reasoning: Bail was granted on conditions including that his family pay a surety of $5000, he surrender travel documents, he not contact the victim, and that he reside in Perth.
The offences that the applicant was charged with were serious. However, Refshauge J determined he could not assess the strength of the Crown case given the absence of much evidence and the victim’s damaged reputation as evidence because of her apparent retraction of the complaint. The applicant also had a substantial cash surety available to him and proposed to live with his parents. He had no criminal record. His departure from Canberra to Perth immediately after the offences were alleged was an indication of his intention to flee. However, this risk could be mitigated by imposing conditions on bail such as the surrender of travel documents, that he report to police and be prohibited from being at a place of international departure. Refshauge J accepted that the applicant was likely to commit further violent offences against the victim if he had contact with her. However, this could also be mitigated by the applicant living in Perth and on the condition that he not contact the victim. The Crown’s submission that the applicant could intimidate and interfere with witnesses if bail was granted was rejected. The fact the applicant could withdraw his sponsorship of the victim’s family was unlikely to be affected by his bail status. Further, the victim had already retracted her initial complaint, with no evidence from the prosecution that this was a result of intimidation from the application.
Charge/s: Threatening to commit arson, stalking, breach of a personal protection order x 2.
Hearing: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: The offences arose out of the breakdown of a relationship between the offender and his former female partner. The relationship ended acrimoniously, particularly in relation to the care and access arrangements relating to the care of the couple’s child. The offender’s former partner obtained Domestic Violence Order against the offender and her parents obtained Personal Violence Protection Orders. Subsequently, the offender and his former partner had an argument over the telephone over the care and access arrangements for their daughter. The offender went over to the house of his former partner’s parents and began shouting and swearing at his former partner. He produced a cigarette lighter and threatened to burn her parent’s car. Further, the offender pleaded guilty to a count of stalking on the basis of 25 phone calls made to his former partner. Most were for relatively short periods and were made at varying hours of the day. Finally, the offender breached the Personal Protection Orders by calling his former partner’s parents on multiple occasions.
Decision and Reasoning: Refshauge J imposed a total sentence of 2 years and 4 months imprisonment, suspended for a period of two years. In imposing this sentence, Refshauge J took into account the purposes of sentencing and in particular, specific deterrence and vindication of the victims (in light of the Victim Impact Statements delivered in court — See -). He also took into account the offender’s plea of guilty and his subjective circumstances (including the offender’s drug problem).
These offences were serious and warranted a term of imprisonment. The offence of arson was serious because the offender produced a cigarette lighter, there was a threat with intent to achieve an objective to which he may otherwise not have been entitled, and it was committed at the home of the victim. The stalking offence was also a serious offence particularly because it was committed with a circumstance of aggravation, namely in the presence of a Domestic Violence Order. Finally, the breaches of Personal Protection Orders were serious because they involved a disregard of a court order designed to protect the subjects of the orders.
Charge/s: Aggravated burglary, unlawful confinement, common assault, carry/use a firearm with disregard for own safety or safety of other persons.
Hearing: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: The 26 year old male offender and the 21 year old female complainant commenced a relationship after meeting on an online dating website. Five weeks after their first meeting, the complainant told the offender that she wanted to end the relationship but wished to remain friends. The complainant then went overseas for 2 months. Upon her return, the offender tried to re-commence their relationship but the complainant did not want to. At a meeting between the pair, the offender said the complainant was ‘cruel’, ‘yelled at him’ and ‘humiliated him’. A month later, the complainant was home alone in her apartment. The offender sprung out from behind a door, covered her mouth with a gloved hand and told her not to scream. In his other hand, he was holding a gun. There was a struggle in which the offender tackled the complainant onto the bed and held a gun against her chest. The complainant was confined to the apartment for 3 hours.
Decision and Reasoning: Imprisonment was the only penalty appropriate in the circumstances. These were very serious offences — the complainant was in her own apartment which the offender broke into, he carried a gun, he wore medical gloves, held the gun against the complainant’s chest, and confined the complainant in terrifying circumstances for 3 hours. However, on the balance of probabilities, Robinson AJ found that the offender was suffering from a depressive mental illness on the day of the offence. The moral culpability of the offender was reduced, although not eliminated, by this depressive illness. There was a moderate risk of reoffending but His Honour concluded the offender had very good prospects for rehabilitation in light of the treatment of his mental illness and his new relationship. In the circumstances, it was desirable to give weight to the promotion of the rehabilitation of the offender. Accordingly, the offender, was sentenced to a total effective sentence of 2 years imprisonment, suspended from 9 December 2015.
Note: the convictions in relation to this case were set aside and a retrial was ordered because the trial judge failed to provide a warning pursuant s 38E of the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1991 (ACT) (see Thompson v The Queen; The Queen v Thompson  ACTCA 12 (6 May 2016).
Charges: Choking a person so as to render them unconscious, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, common assault
Appeal type: Crown appeal against sentence
Facts: The respondent and victim were in a domestic relationship for three and a half years and lived together with the complaint’s son. One afternoon the respondent and victim got into a fight that resulted in the respondent striking the victim across her face and placing her in a chokehold. The respondent then placed his knee on the victim’s shoulder. After the victim asked him to stop, he asked ‘You want to die?’. The respondent then placed his hand around the victim’s throat and started squeezing before placing his other hand over her mouth and nose. As a result the victim briefly lost consciousness. Later the same day the respondent grabbed the victim by her hair and began shaking her. Attempting to free herself from the respondent’s grip, she ended up on the ground when the respondent kicked her face, and jumped and stomped on her arm and head. When the respondent realised the victim’s son witnessed the attack he told him ‘I didn’t do anything wrong. Mum’s flipping out’.
In relation to this conduct the respondent was charged and made late guilty pleas to choking a person so as to render that person unconscious, for which he was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment; assault occasioning actual bodily harm, for which he was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment, with three months to be served cumulatively on the sentence imposed for the offence of choking; and common assault, for which he was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment concurrent with the sentence imposed on the charge of choking. A non-parole period of 12 months was ordered. While the offending occurred, the respondent was on parole for burglary, theft and unauthorised possession of a firearm. The respondent’s parole was subsequently revoked and he was liable to serve the remainder of his sentence. The sentence imposed for the offence of choking was ordered to commence at the expiration of the sentence the respondent was serving as a result of the cancellation of the parole order.
The respondent had an extensive criminal history, having been convicted for approximately 80 criminal offences in the past 20 years. He also had a long history of substance abuse and mental health issues including being previously diagnosed with antisocial and paranoid personality traits. A pre-sentence report noted that the respondent made derogatory comments about the victim and demonstrated minimal victim empathy. The report also considered the respondent was at high risk of reoffending.
Issue: Whether the sentence was manifestly inadequate.
Decision and reasoning: The appeal was allowed on the sentences imposed for the offences of choking and assault occasioning bodily harm. These sentences were set aside and the respondent was resentenced to a term of three years and one month’s imprisonment for the offence of choking and 20 months’ imprisonment for the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The starting point of 18 months’ imprisonment adopted by the magistrate before a reduction for the guilty pleas was manifestly inadequate in relation to the choking offence when considering the maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment, the objective circumstances of the offence and the subjective circumstances of the offender. Burns J held that an appropriate starting point was three years and nine months’ imprisonment with a reduction of eight months for the plea of guilty. Likewise, the starting point of 14 months’ imprisonment for the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm was also manifestly inadequate. An appropriate starting point when considering the seriousness of the offending was two years’ imprisonment, reduced to 20 months’ imprisonment to reflect the plea of guilty.
In coming to this conclusion, Burns J considered that the seriousness of offences of violence within intimate relationships requires sentences that strongly denounce and deter such offending. Citing Wood CJ in R v Edigarov  NSWCCA 436, ‘such conduct is brutal, cowardly and inexcusable, and the Courts have a duty to ensure that it is adequately punished, and that sentences are handed out which have a strong element of personal and general deterrence’.
Charge/s: Forcible confinement, damaging property, theft.
Hearing: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: The offender, who was on parole at the time, confined his mother in her home for 2 hours. During the course of confinement, the offender verbally abused his mother, threatened violence and damage to property, and damaged a heater and a wooden cedar door. The offender’s anger was based on his belief that his parents were communicating with Corrective Services, putting in jeopardy his parole order. His parents were in fact communicating with Corrective Services because they were concerned he had resumed his methamphetamine use. The offender completed a substance misuse program before being paroled in 2013. His initial response to parole supervision was satisfactory — his urinalysis results were negative and he obtained employment. However, at the time of the confinement, he had resumed his methamphetamine use.
Decision and Reasoning: A sentence of 2 years and 1 month imprisonment was imposed. Burns J took into account the circumstances of the offence (it was committed out of anger and a sense of betrayal, it caused a significant degree of fear but no injuries were inflicted). His Honour also noted the guilty plea, the youth of the offender and that rehabilitation was an important consideration (however, this had to be ‘considered guarded’ (see)). There was a need for both general and specific deterrence.
His Honour further took into account that this was a family violence matter and stated, ‘that is relevant because the only reason that you were able to commit this offence was because of the relationship of trust that existed between you and the victim. If you had not been a family member who was loved and trusted by your victim you would not have had the opportunity to commit this offence. I also note that the offence occurred in the victim's own home, where she should have been entitled to feel safe’ (See ).
Facts: The defendant gave false evidence in a bail application involving an allegation of assault that had been made against her ex-partner. It was alleged that her ex-partner assaulted his mother. The defendant’s ex-partner also assaulted her prior to the alleged assault on his mother. A psychologist’s report indicated that the defendant was suffering from ‘a major depressive disorder of moderate severity’ (see at ) when she was in a relationship with her partner. The report described the relationship as physically and emotionally abusive which resulted in a gradual deterioration of the defendant’s mental health and reported low self-worth and feeling overwhelmed. Notwithstanding this, she felt that her partner was the only person who she could rely on. The defendant had no prior convictions. She was 18 years old when the offence occurred.
Issue/s: The appropriate sentence to be imposed.
Decision and Reasoning: The defendant was ordered to enter into a good behaviour order for 15 months with conditions that she accept the supervision of ACT Corrective Service and not to associate with her former partner. No conviction was recorded. Burns J noted that this offence, while serious, was at the lower end of the spectrum for offences of this nature. His Honour accepted that her mental illness affected her judgment and also noted the fact she was in a controlling relationship with her ex-partner. The defendant had good prospects of rehabilitation. The offence of perjury is serious and normally results in the recording of a conviction and imprisonment. However, in this case, the mitigating factors including her youth and mental illness meant that rehabilitation, rather than general deterrence were the primary sentencing considerations. His Honour warned the defendant that relationships like those with her ex-partner are characterised by a significant degree of manipulation and that the defendant ought to be aware of the likelihood of her ex-partner to attempt to recommence the relationship using protestations that he has changed and is going to behave in a different way. He urged the defendant to be mature enough to understand that such change is not going to happen.
Charge/s: Forcible confinement, common assault.
Hearing: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: The offender was the complainant’s carer and partner. They had been in an ‘on again off again’ sexual relationship for 3 years and the offender had recently moved back into the complainant’s flat. On 14 October 2013, during an argument, the complainant told the offender to get his belongings and leave the flat. She then attempted to leave herself but the offender grabbed her arms and forced her back into the flat. The complainant made a number of unsuccessful attempts to escape and the offender took her mobile phone. The offender refused to leave. At one stage, he agreed to pack his belongings and asked the complainant for some money. When she refused, he forced her onto the couch. She tried to yell but the offender grabbed her throat, restricting her ability to breathe. After 5 hours, the offender gave the complainant her mobile and left the flat. These offences put the offender in breach of a good behaviour order imposed in respect of an earlier offence of a reckless threat to kill made against the same complainant. That offence involved the heavily intoxicated and distressed offender threatening his partner with a knife, a hammer and a piece of concrete.
Decision and Reasoning: The offender was sentenced to 22 months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 10 months. Penfold J took into account a number of factors in imposing this sentence. In determining the charged offences to be of mid-range seriousness, His Honour noted that in some cases being confined in one’s own home by a partner might be less frightening than being confined in a strange place by a stranger (depending on past experiences with the partner); during confinement, the offender was physically violent to the complainant; the offender was on conditional liberty at the time of the offence; the domestic relationship put the parties into a position of trust and, to an extent, the offender abused this trust (however, the offender’s role as a carer did not mean that the offence involved any extra abuse of a position of trust because the complainant was 14 years older and the offender had a very disturbed upbringing); the offences had a distressing and more than short-term effect on the complainant; and the offender accepted responsibility for his actions (See -).
Penfold J also took into account the subjective circumstances of the offender. He did not seem to have any tendency towards criminal behaviour except in the context of this relationship. However, His Honour noted that ‘much of violent crime committed within domestic relationships is committed by men who otherwise live entirely within the law’. Further, the offender had a very disturbed upbringing. His mother suffered with severe mental illness and schizophrenia and would alternate between being a loving mother to being emotionally and physically abusive towards her children. He witnessed his mother kill herself when he was 8 when she set herself alight. The offender was then raised by his adoptive father, who would drink heavily to cope and belt the children (See -). The relationship between the offender and the complainant was ‘toxic’ and characterised by substance abuse and conflict (See -). Penfold J also took into account general and specific deterrence, the offender’s guilty plea and the offender’s acceptance of counselling.
Hearing: Breach of 12 month good behaviour order.
Facts: In February 2014, BJ was sentenced for burglary, minor theft and common assault. These charges arose out of the breakdown of a relationship between BJ, then aged 17, and the female complainant. He was sentenced to a 12 month good behaviour order, including a condition that he undertake the Cognitive Self-Change Program. Nearly 5 months after BJ was sentenced, he began another serious of offences against another ex-partner. These offences involved: taking his ex-partner’s car keys, damaging her car and stealing the car; using a false Facebook identity to taunt her with pictures of the car hidden in a forest; attempting to get her (alone) to meet him in the forest; further damaging the car; and making a series of harassing phone calls to his ex-partner. He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment for these offences, 3 months served in full time custody and 6 months suspended subject to a 24 month good behaviour order. The matter was referred to Penfold J here to deal with the breach of the earlier imposed good behaviour order.
Issue/s: Whether further action is warranted in light of BJ’s breach of a good behaviour order.
Decision and Reasoning: Penfold J noted that he was incorrect in his 2014 sentencing remarks and BJ did in fact have a tendency to behave inappropriately in the context of failed intimate relationships. He noted that this behaviour needed to be addressed as early as possible. Penfold J imposed a new good behaviour order for 2 years subject to the following conditions: accept the supervision of ACT Corrective Services and obey all reasonable directions, under take counselling courses, programs or treatments, and undertake either one or both of a Men’s Cognitive Self-Change Program and a Family Violence Cognitive Self-Change Program.
Charge/s: Assault occasioning actual bodily harm, common assault x 3, threatening to cause damage to the complainant’s property.
Hearing: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: The offender was a friend and former partner of the female complainant. The offender became jealous when the complainant received a phone call because he suspected it was from another man. The complainant asked the offender to leave her apartment. He refused. He pushed and attempted to choke the complainant and held a knife to the throat of her cat. The assaults were accompanied by verbal abuse and abusive text messaging. The offender also rifled through the victim’s belongings and demanded her phone. The incident lasted about 15 minutes.
Decision and Reasoning: The offender was sentenced to a good behaviour order for 3 years and fined $1750. In terms of the objective seriousness of the offending, Murrell CJ noted that the conduct constituting the assault occasioning bodily harm was extremely serious. It was a very forceful and frightening assault that involved the offender taking hold of the victim’s throat. The actual bodily harm that resulted was at the lower end of the spectrum but the incident had a considerable psychological impact. The other offences were less serious. The incident, while not fleeting, was relatively short. It was not only frightening but designed to humiliate. It occurred within the victim’s home, in circumstances where she had asked him to leave.
Further, this was an incident of domestic violence. Her Honour noted:
‘These offences occurred in the context of a previous relationship between the offender and the victim and involved violence within the victim's home, an apparent sense of entitlement on the part of the offender, and humiliation through verbal and text abuse of the victim.
The sentencing purposes of punishment, general deterrence and denunciation are very important, as well as the recognition of harm to the victim personally and the community generally through offences of this nature. The victim provided a victim impact statement in which she referred to impacts upon her of the type that frequently result from offences of domestic violence, including feelings of anxiety, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating at work and elsewhere, and an adverse effect on her ability to form relationships. Since the incident, the victim has moved house because she felt unsafe in the apartment where the offence occurred’ (See -).
Her Honour also took into account the subjective circumstances of the offender including that the offender had been assessed as being at low risk of re-offending, he was employed, is a member of a close and supportive family and has no problems with drug dependence or mental health. However, Murrell CJ further noted that the offender lacked insight into the seriousness of his conduct and the impact on the victim. Although this was probably a one-off incident, Her Honour considered that it would be of assistance to the offender to undertake courses that may guide him towards greater insight and maturity in relation to interpersonal relationships.
Hearing: Breach of community service condition to a good behaviour order.
Facts: In 2012, Mr Ennis was convicted for assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Mr Ennis and his female partner, who had been together for 27 years, were both drunk and fought ‘over money’. During this argument, Mr Ennis caused his partner to suffer a fracture to the left forearm and a laceration to the outside of her lower leg. Mr Ennis had a long history of cannabis and alcohol abuse. He claimed that this alcohol abuse led to his criminality. The sentencing judge made a good behaviour order for 2 years, with a condition that Mr Ennis perform 100 hours of community service within 12 months. Mr Ennis breached this order by failing to complete the community service work conditions. He submitted that the breach was the result of his alcohol abuse.
Issue/s: Whether further action is warranted in light of Mr Ennis’ breach of a good behaviour order.
Decision and Reasoning: The order was amended by extending the good behaviour period to a further 12 months, extending the number of hours of community service work to 108 hours to be completed in 12 months, and requiring Mr Ennis to be subject supervision by the Director-General. In imposing this sentence, Refshauge J noted that while Mr Ennis’ breach was unsurprising in light of his alcohol abuse, this did not provide an excuse for his behaviour (See ). In favour of Mr Ennis, it was significant that he had not committed any offences in the two years since the order was made. His Honour noted, ‘This is a very important matter, for that is the fundamental objective of the criminal law, namely, as Brennan J described it in Channon v The Queen (1978) 33 FLR 433 at 437, the protection of society which is achieved by the prevention of crime and the eradication of recidivism’ (See ).
Further, Mr Ennis had taken steps towards rehabilitation namely, enrolling in a number of programs including drug and alcohol counselling, a Men and Anger Program and an Employment Pathway Plan (See -). Mr Ennis’ partner was also addressing her alcohol abuse and they were both accessing counselling at relationships Australia (See ). However, Refshauge J remained sceptical in his assessment of this reform and nevertheless extended the good behaviour order (See -).
His Honour noted: Despite the considerable contribution that illicit drug use makes to criminality in the community, alcohol remains a problem for those addicted to it. Alcohol abuse remains a very significant source of crime and leads the addict to unhealthy and anti-social behaviour and situations (See ).
See also R v Ennis  ACTSC 72 (4 April 2016).
Appeal type: Appeal against conviction and sentence.
Facts: The appellant pleaded guilty to an offence that he assaulted his former fiance and de facto partner of 2 years (the complainant). The offence occurred about 1 month after the appellant and the complainant had separated in the presence of the complainant, a friend, and the appellant’s young son. The appellant and the complainant argued and the complainant asked him to leave. The garage door hit the appellant on the head as he left and he turned around the pushed the complainant. She fell backwards into the car. The appellant spoke in a threatening manner to the complainant. He pushed her again, kicked her car twice, and left.
Issue/s: One of the grounds of appeal was that the primary judge erred in his assessment of what constituted an aggravating feature of the offence.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal against conviction and appeal against sentence was dismissed. In relation to the appeal against conviction, the appellant submitted that the mere fact the offence was committed at the home of the victim is not enough to aggravate the offence; there must be some level of intrusion. Murrell CJ noted that a sentencing court must consider all relevant objective and subjective matters. She stated,
‘When considering the sentencing purposes set out in s 7 of the Sentencing Act, including general and personal deterrence, a sentencing court is entitled to consider the fact that an offence involved domestic violence, and that the violence has occurred at the victim’s home. An offence involving domestic violence is one that involves abuse of a partner, former partner or other family member (using the term “family” in the broadest sense). Frequently, such offences occur in the home, where the inhibitions of an offender may be lowered, the impact on the victim may be heightened (as she or he is made to feel that a formerly safe place has been violated) and the occurrence of the offence is more readily concealed. Further, where a domestic violence offence occurs in the victim’s home, it is often associated with secondary abuse to other family members’ (See ; See also R v Bell  ACTSC 123 -).
Here, the primary judge did not approach the matter on the basis that the ‘mere fact’ that the incident took place at the complainant’s home was an aggravating feature. He considered the location of the offence in the context of other relevant circumstances namely that it occurred at a place where the complainant was entitled to feel safe, it occurred in the presence of the appellant’s son, and the appellant refused to leave.
Charges: Damaging property, breach of domestic violence order, assault
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence
Facts: The appellant, an Aboriginal man, and the victim were in a relationship and had a son together. The appellant and victim also both had a daughter each from previous relationships. He was charged and convicted of damaging property, assault and breaching a domestic violence order made to protect the victim. No further information about the offending or factual matrix was provided. Since his arrest and while on bail, the appellant attended Oolong House several times where he received rehabilitative treatment. The magistrate sentenced the appellant to 12 months’ imprisonment each for the assault and damaging property offences, to be served concurrently, and two years’ imprisonment for the breach of the domestic violence order. In sentencing, the magistrate stated ‘The current offences continue a pattern of behaviour that appears entrenched in the context of the relationship with the victim. Despite legal sanctions and protection orders, [the appellant] has yet to demonstrate the responsibility to abide by conditions to uphold the safety of vulnerable people in his life. Under the influence of substances his behaviour poses unacceptable risks for such people’ ().
The appellant had a somewhat difficult childhood with his parents divorcing after his father suffered a stroke and his mother abusing alcohol. He finished school at year 10 and had very limited and sporadic employment since then. He had a long history of alcohol and drug abuse and engaged in residential rehabilitation several times. The appellant also suffered depression, stress and anxiety and was housed in the AMC Crisis Support Unit since his remand due to his risk of suicide and/or self-harm. He had an extensive history of criminal offending, including convictions for common assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and contravening protection orders against the victim.
Issues: Some grounds of appeal were:
Decision and reasoning: The appeal was dismissed.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence
Facts: The appellant, his wife (the complainant) and their children moved to Canberra in order for him to complete a PhD. After their daughter complained that she did not like the lunch the complainant was preparing, the complainant struck the daughter’s hip with a plastic doll to ‘chastise her for her behaviour’. The appellant became angry at the complainant’s actions and slapped her. When questioned by police, the appellant said ‘I do not think I did anything wrong. In my culture, I did not do anything wrong’. He pleaded guilty to assault at the earliest opportunity and expressed remorse in a letter to the court.
At trial, the appellant was unrepresented but had a Bangladeshi interpreter. A conviction was recorded and the appellant was ordered to sign a good behaviour undertaking for two years. The magistrate noted that ‘cultural differences may be in play here, but I don’t accept them on the basis that you’ve been here for two years, you’ve acknowledged in your own statement to me today that you understand what you did was wrong’.
Issues: Some grounds of appeal were:
Decision and reasoning: The appeal was dismissed and the sentence imposed by the magistrate was confirmed.
The magistrate was obliged to provide an explanation to the appellant for declining to make a non-conviction order. He was unrepresented, inexperienced in the procedures of Australian courts and English was not his first language. The magistrate performed this obligation in explaining that a non-conviction order could not be made due to the nature and circumstances of the offence. However, the magistrate did not allow the appellant to put forward evidence or a proper explanation when he attempted to explain the detriment to his future should a conviction be recorded. Therefore, the magistrate erred in dealing with the appellant’s application for a non-conviction order by failing to give proper consideration to the application, having regard to the particular difficulties faced by the appellant.Despite this error, the appeal was dismissed because re-sentencing was not appropriate. Having regard to the factors in s 17 of the Act, Penfold J held there were no grounds sufficient to make a non-conviction order. In particular, the appellant’s character, antecedents, age, health and mental condition; the seriousness of the offence; his extenuating circumstances; and the absence of any properly explained or substantiated claim that a conviction would have negative impacts on his future prospects, would not have excluded the making of a non-conviction order.
Charges: Unlawful confinement, assault occasioning actual bodily harm (two counts)
Facts: The offender and victim were in a domestic relationship. The victim had a son from a previous relationship. Six months after moving in together, the offender sat on the victim’s stomach, held both arms above her head and tied her wrists to the bed. The offender told the victim, “you’ve hurt my feelings. Now you have to pay. I’m going to take you for a drive to the forest and I’m going to kill you”. He then slapped her across the face several times and stuck a piece of clothing in her mouth. The victim was gagging and choking and believed that she would suffocate. The offender then hit the victim’s thigh with a car aerial and held a lit match to her face, threatening “have you ever played ‘light the match’ game?”. The next day the offender brought the victim flowers and apologised. Several days later the victim woke up to the offender slapping her face. Her son then walked into the room but returned to his bedroom after the offender screamed at him. The victim packed herself and her son into the car to escape after the offender had left. However, the offender returned and parked his car behind the victim’s car. He grabbed the victim’s shoulders, pushed her backwards causing her to hit to head and dragged her into the house. When inside, he grabbed her throat, kicked her, forced her face under a running tap, slapped her and threatened her.
The offender was charged with unlawful confinement and two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He maintained a plea of not guilty for nearly two years until changing his plea to guilty on the date the trial was to begin.
The offender had a long history of offending including convictions of nine common assaults, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, stalking and two breaches of domestic violence orders. He also had a history of dysfunctional relationships, with many of these convictions resulting from domestic violence. He abused prescription drugs and suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, depression and bipolar. During one period of excessive drug use, the offender was diagnosed with amphetamine-induced paranoid psychosis. The offender engaged in the methadone program and drug and alcohol counselling to address his substance abuse. He reported that since the offending, he had ceased using drugs or drinking heavily and that he was no longer short-tempered and jumpy.
Issue: What sentence should the offender receive?
Decision and reasoning: Penfold J emphasised the need for general deterrence and denunciation for domestic violence offences. Having regard to the offender’s criminal history and his repeated failures to take advantage of rehabilitative opportunities, rehabilitation was not the highest priority in sentencing. His Honour accepted some concession was needed for the offender’s improved behaviour in the two years since the offending and his continued engagement with mental health services. However, no sentence other than imprisonment was appropriate when considering the gravity of the offending and the effect on the victim and her son.
The offences were all serious examples of the relevant offences. The presence of the victim’s son during the second assault occasioning actual bodily harm aggravated the offence. All the offences were further aggravated by the breach of trust that is ‘inherent is most if not all domestic violence offences, especially those that occur in the privacy of a home shared by the victim and the perpetrator, a circumstance which of itself — that is the sharing of the home — seems to me to establish a mutual relationship of trust’ ().
Penfold J sentenced the offender to a total sentence of 38 months’ imprisonment, suspended after 24 months. This total sentence comprised of 25 months’ imprisonment for the offence of unlawful confinement, 18 months’ imprisonment for the first offence of assault occasioning bodily harm, and 20 months’ imprisonment for the second offence of assault occasioning bodily harm. The first assault occasioning bodily harm sentence was ordered to be accumulated so as to add three months to the unlawful confinement offence and the second assault occasioning bodily harm sentence was ordered to be accumulated so as to add 10 months to the total sentence.
Charge/s: Intentionally causing damage to property x 2, trespassing without reasonable excuse, assault, minor theft.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The appellant was in a relationship with a young woman, the complainant, and they had two children together. The relationship was characterised by ongoing conflict, caused largely by the appellant’s ongoing abuse of alcohol, and subsequently the relationship broke down. Later, the appellant went to the complainant’s house to see the children but she refused to let him in. The appellant damaged the front security door and shouted threats. He was arrested and granted bail for this offence. However, before the proceedings could be resolved, the appellant again went to the complainant’s property, and broke open the front door. The appellant began to strangle the complainant (assault). The complainant’s daughter rang the complainant’s mother who arrived and manage to calm the appellant down. The police arrived and the appellant ran off. On another subsequent occasion, the appellant was charged with minor theft for leaving a petrol station without paying.
The appellant pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Magistrates Court to: intentionally causing damage to property — fine of $1,500; intentionally causing damage to property — 3 months imprisonment to commence on 1 August 2013; trespassing without reasonable excuse — fine of $500; assault — 17 months imprisonment to commence on 1 September 2013; minor theft — fine of $250. A non-parole period of 12 months was set on the total period of 18 months imprisonment.
Issue/s: One of the grounds of appeal was that the terms of imprisonment imposed, including the non-parole period, were manifestly excessive.
Decision and Reasoning: The sentence for the assault was manifestly excessive, the appeal allowed and the appellant re-sentenced (see R v Beniamini; Beniamini v Storman  ACTSC 40 (22 January 2014)). The offence of assault was serious: it was committed late at night in the complainant’s home; it was an offence in the context of family violence; and the offence was protracted. It was more serious by the fact that the appellant was on conditional liberty at the time, the offence was committed in the presence of children, and the appellant had prior convictions for personal violence (but not family violence).
However, despite the seriousness of the assault, the sentence was manifestly excessive because the magistrate started her calculation of sentence on the basis that this was almost the worst category of the offence (See ). Since the time of offences, the appellant had made no further inappropriate contact with the complainant, had managed to resolve issues of access to the children, and had stopped drinking. This was also his first offence of violence in the family context. It was also relevant that the denial of access to his children at the time was arbitrary and not under any court order. He was remorseful and showed insight into his actions (See -).
Charge/s: Assault occasioning bodily harm.
Hearing: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: Mr Curtis, an 18 year old Aboriginal man, and the female victim were in a relationship. On 1 June 2013, Mr Curtis became agitated and aggressive towards the victim. He started punching her legs, arms, torso and stomach, causing bruising. When interviewed by police, he said that the victim had wanted him to teach her how to ‘stick up’ for herself and that they were just ‘mucking around’ but he stopped when he thought that what was happening did not ‘feel right’.
Decision and Reasoning: Mr Curtis was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 2 years, and ordered to comply with good behaviour obligations (a probation condition making Mr Curtis subject to the supervision of the Director-General and required to obey all reasonable directions as to counselling or treatment for his mental health and his abuse of alcohol and other drugs). In imposing this sentence, Refshauge J took into account Mr Curtis’ plea of guilty. He also took into account the subjective circumstances of Mr Curtis including his troubled childhood, his relationship with his 20 month old child, his current committed relationship, his use of alcohol and illicit substances, and his history of mental health issues (See -).
Refshauge J also took into account that the offence was serious especially because it was committed in the context of a relationship. His Honour quoted Higgins CJ in R v Bell  ACTSC 123 at : ‘I appreciate that personality disorders may often underlie the criminal behaviour of men who beat women. Alcohol or other substance abuse may sometimes be a triggering factor. Nevertheless, they must take responsibility for their actions and be seen to have done so. The offence is often hidden, so general deterrence is a factor that is quite prominent. So also is specific deterrence. No offender engaging in this kind of behaviour, nor their victims, should feel that it is to be treated lightly. Rather, it must be made the subject of condign punishment. That is not to say, of course, that any mitigatory factors or prospects for rehabilitation will be disregarded’ (See -).
Refshauge J further accepted that the youth of Mr Curtis and his prospects for rehabilitation were very relevant to the sentencing exercise. Per His Honour, ‘for youthful offenders rehabilitation is usually more important than general deterrence, especially when retributive punishment may in fact lead to further offending. A youthful offender should not be sent to an adult prison if it can be avoided’ (See ). A lengthy good behaviour order was warranted in light of the need for rehabilitation. In this context, His Honour noted the influence of excessive alcohol on the offending which, although not mitigating the offending, was very relevant to rehabilitation (See 36].
See also R v Curtis (No 2)  ACTSC 34 (26 February 2016).
Charge/s: Contravention of a domestic violence order.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The female complainant and the male appellant had been in a relationship for 6-12 months and had lived together until mid-December 2012. After the complainant was granted an interim domestic violence order against the appellant, the appellant telephoned the complainant to meet him at a friend’s place so he could give her the keys back to her place. At this meeting, an argument developed and the appellant started chasing the complainant, yelling abuse. When he caught up to the complainant, he raised his arm as if to punch her, but instead he grabbed the complainant’s sunglasses, snapped them in half and threw them in her face. This caused the complainant injury. The appellant was sentenced to 32 months imprisonment for the charge of contravening a protection order.
Issue/s: The sentence was manifestly excessive.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was upheld and the appellant re-sentenced to 23 months imprisonment. Refshauge J noted that there was no doubt that the offending was serious. The fact that the appellant had been convicted of 9 prior offences of the same character against another woman meant that he could be afforded little leniency. However, the sentence was nonetheless disproportionate to the offending conduct.
Three features listed by the sentencing judge as aggravating the offence, were not in fact aggravating features. First, while domestic violence orders play a special place in the criminal law’s efforts to prevent domestic violence, His Honour erred in finding that a domestic violence was a feature of aggravation for the offence of contravening a domestic violence order. Second, His Honour also incorrectly found that the fact the offence occurred in public was a circumstance of aggravation in this particular case as there were no people present at the time of offence. His Honour also referred to Grimshaw v Mann  ACTSC 189 at -. Finally, the sentencing judge inferred that the broken part of the complainant’s glasses was sharp and this aggravated the offending. However, this conclusion was not supported by the evidence (See -). Further, the sentencing judge did not take into adequately discount the sentence to account for the appellant’s plea of guilty (See ).
Refshauge J quoted from R v BG (an unreported judgment from December 2010):
Compliance with any sort of protection order is essential for the court in protecting members of the community from violence and other unwanted behaviour. Breaches of protection orders risk the success of the regime from achieving that purpose, especially if they encourage people to think that they can breach with impunity. A severe approach is necessary, consistent with fairness to the accused. Thus, the Court cannot punish beyond what is appropriate to the offence (See ).
Charge/s: Breaches of an interim protection order x 4, breach of a personal protection order, failure to comply with a bail undertaking to appear in court, common assault x 2.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The appellant, an Aboriginal man, had been in a relationship with the female complainant and they had 3 children together. The complainant was granted a personal protection order against the appellant. The appellant breached these orders on 5 occasions by being at the premises of the complainant. The common assault offences occurred when the appellant assaulted his father. The appellant pleaded guilty to 4 breaches of an interim protection order made on 23 July 2012 and breach then of the personal protection order subsequently made on 23 August 2012, a failure to comply with a bail undertaking to appear in court, and 2 offences of common assault. In the Magistrates Court, a total period of imprisonment of 16 months was imposed from 21 March 2013, with a non-parole period of 12 months.
Issue/s: The grounds of appeal were –
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was upheld on grounds 2 and 3 but not ground 1. The magistrate failed to take into account a period by pre-sentence custody by starting the sentences on 21 March 2013 rather than 23 February 2013. Further, the good behaviour order for which the appellant had been sentenced had previously been cancelled (See -). However, the sentence could not be said to be manifestly excessive. Refshauge J stated,
‘While the offence against Mr Khan’s father could also be described as domestic violence, the fact is that the interim personal protection order and the personal protection orders are there to protect the complainant from what might be described as domestic violence in its widest sense. Therefore, such orders are an important component of the criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence. Breaches of personal protection orders are serious matters which the courts must treat seriously to ensure the integrity of the system which the protection orders are intended to put in to effect’ (See ).
Charge/s: Common assault.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The Aboriginal male appellant was involved in an altercation with his former female partner (the complainant) of 7 years. The relationship ended in 2010 due to the appellant’s use of drug and alcohol, and he had not seen the children since. In May 2012, the appellant moved to Canberra to be closer to his children and commenced proceedings in the Family Court for access rights. On 2 June 2012, outside a late night convenience store, the appellant started arguing with the complainant and struck her three times with a closed fist. She fell to the ground and hit her head. She was helped up by her two friends and threw a glass soft drink bottle at the appellant. She missed but smashed another glass bottle over his head. The appellant needed four stiches. The appellant voluntarily handed himself into the police two days later. The complainant had previously obtained two protection orders against the appellant. Both had expired at the time of offence.
At the sentencing hearing, a lengthy Victim Impact Statement was tendered. However, it contained a good deal of irrelevant and inadmissible material. Refshauge J on appeal stated:
‘Allegations of further serious offending cannot come within the definition of “harm suffered by the victim [as a result of, or in the course of, the commission] of the offence”: s 47 of the Crimes (Sentencing) Act 2005 (ACT). While defence counsel may be wary of exercising their rights to cross-examine a victim on a Victim Impact Statement, discussions with prosecutors should result in an appropriate response from responsible prosecutors about inadmissible material and such statements. Without that proper approach, it is likely that such statements will lose their value and that the courts will have to intervene to ensure that the legislation is respected to ensure inadmissible, and often inflammatory, material is not included in such statements’ (See ).
The appellant pleaded guilty to common assault and was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, three months to be served by full-time custody, three months by periodic detention and the balance suspended and a two year good behaviour order made. The appellant sought assistance for his alcohol and drug issues, made contact with the Aboriginal Justice Centre, and enrolled in a men’s anger program.
Issue/s: The sentence was manifestly excessive.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was allowed and the appellant re-sentenced to 10 months imprisonment to commence on 28 May 2013, suspended for two years from 27 August 2013. The sentence was manifestly excessive in all the circumstances. First, the sentencing magistrate did not take into account the appellant’s injuries caused by the complainant which occurred when the appellant was no longer a threat to the complainant. Second, the injuries sustained by the complainant, as apparent from photographic evidence, were not as serious as what was described in the Victim Impact Statement. Finally, the appellant’s criminal history, although containing prior convictions for violent offences, did not demonstrate a propensity to violence. He had not been charged with any domestic violence offences and he had not breached two personal protection orders (See -).
His Honour further stated:
‘The prosecution referred to the aggravating factor that the assault “took place in a public place.” I have some difficulty with that factor as an aggravating one. It implies that an assault in private is less serious. I am not sure that this follows.
Most family violence occurs in private yet is regarded as very serious. Indeed, privacy can emphasise the vulnerability and helplessness of the victim.
However that may be, intermediate Courts of Appeal have regularly referred to the fact that violent offences committed in public are more serious. See, for example, R v Freestone  QCA 290 at , Ludeman v The Queen (2010) 208 A Crim R 298 at 321; , Smith v Tasmania  TASCCA 3 at , R v Edwards  QCA 117 at , Shoard v Van Der Zanden  WASC 163 at . This is the not the place to consider the rationale for such an approach; that will have to wait for another day. It is enough that the reliance by the learned Magistrate on the fact that the assault occurred in public as an aggravating factor was not an error’ (See -).
Charges: Assault occasioning actual bodily harm (two counts)
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence
Facts: The appellant and complainant were in a relationship and resided together with their son. While arguing one day, the appellant grabbed the complainant’s arm and punched her in the face a number of times. In response, the complainant struck the appellant in the torso. The pair continued to exchange blows throughout the day with the appellant striking the complainant to the face and punching her thigh, and the complainant hitting the appellant in the torso and face and bitting his arm. A week later, the appellant became angry after having computer difficulties and started swearing at the complainant. When she told him to stop being pathetic and throwing tantrums, the appellant slapped the complainant and caused her eardrum to rupture.
In relation to this conduct the appellant was charged and convicted of two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He was sentenced to 11 months’ imprisonment for the first offence and five months’ imprisonment, of which two months’ was to be served concurrently with the sentence imposed for the first offence, for the second offence. The total sentence was therefore 14 months’ imprisonment. Five months of that sentence was to be served in full custody, with the following five months to be served by way of periodic detention, and the remaining four months suspended upon the appellant entering into a good behaviour order for two years.
The magistrate considered that it was an aggravating feature of the first offence that the assault was comprised of several violent, physical contacts that extended over a period of time. He also considered it was an aggravating feature of both offences that they included blows to the head and face of a female. Finally, his Honour considered the ruptured eardrum of the complainant was an aggravating factor of the second offence.
Issue: Whether the sentence imposed was manifestly excessive.
Decision and reasoning: The appeal was upheld and the appellant was re-sentenced.
The magistrate erred in considering that the nature and duration of the violence in relation to the first offence was an aggravating feature. Rather, it was a circumstance that was relevant to the sentencing of the appellant. Further, the fact the complainant suffered a ruptured eardrum was not an aggravating feature of the second offence. It was merely an element of that offence — namely, that the assault resulted in actual bodily harm. The magistrate also failed to properly consider a psychiatrist report put before him. That report noted that the appellant’s domestic violence was likely related to his on-going mental health difficulties including suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Burns J considered the term of imprisonment with respect to the offences was excessive where there was evidence that the appellant’s conduct was either caused by or contributed to by mental health conditions. These conditions were capable of being treated. Further, the appellant did not have a significant history of violent offending, having only been convicted of two offences of common assault 11 years prior to the offending.
In resentencing the appellant, Burns J accepted that the offences warranted terms of imprisonment. The appellant was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for the first offence and two months’ imprisonment for the second offence. The total sentence of seven months’ imprisonment was backdated to recognise the two months the appellant had already spent in custody, and suspended thereafter. Burns J imposed a good behaviour order for two years with the conditions the appellant accept supervision and obey reasonable directions; undertake programs or counselling as directed, including the Family Violence Cognitive Self Change Program if appropriate; and undertake counselling or treatment with respect to mental health issues.
Charge/s: Damaging property, assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The male appellant was in an intermittent relationship with the female complainant. During the course of an argument, the intoxicated appellant shouted in the complainant’s face and hit her. The appellant then sat on top of the complainant and attempted to choke her. He stood up and kicked her in the ribs when she screamed for help. The appellant sat on top of her again and choked her until her vision went blurry. She started retching and the appellant dragged her to the toilet by her hair. When she finished retching, he poured half a bottle of wine over her head and again placed his hands around her throat. The appellant then pulled the complainant into the lounge room and the complainant tried to calm him down. She went to the police the next day. He was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for common assault and 6 months imprisonment, wholly suspended and conditional on a good behaviour order, for assault occasioning bodily harm.
On a subsequent occasion, the complainant and the appellant again started arguing. The appellant went outside the house to have a cigarette and the complainant locked him out. She packed his bag and left it at the rear door. The appellant, who had not seen the bag, began knocking on the rear door and the window. As the complainant was on the phone to police, she heard the sound of the appellant breaking the window. The complainant told the appellant his belongings were at the front door and he left. He pleaded guilty to damaging property and sentenced to 1 month imprisonment. The conviction constituted a breach of the earlier imposed good behaviour order and the magistrate imposed the full 6 months of this sentence.
Issue/s: The sentence for damaging property and the action taken in respect of the breach of the good behaviour order was manifestly excessive.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was allowed. First, the sentence for the offence of damaging property was manifestly excessive in the circumstances. Although this was a domestic violence offence, this did not mandate a particular response and the circumstances as a whole needed to be considered. Refshauge J accepted the fact that complainant and the appellant had reconciled needed to be treated cautiously. He stated that, ‘Forgiveness by victims of domestic violence offences is highly problematic and must be treated with considerable caution for the reasons outlined by Simpson J in R v Glen  NSWCCA 1 (19 December 1994) at 8. As her Honour said, “the victim’s attitude to sentencing … was not a matter which should have influenced the sentencing decision”.’ However, reconciliation of the complainant and the offender (as opposed to her forgiveness) can be relevant as to prospects of rehabilitation.
Second, the magistrate’s decision to impose the full 6 months suspended sentence was manifestly excessive. While the breaching offence was not trivial, it was at the low end of seriousness for the offence and was also of a different character from the original offence. Significantly, the appellant had also complied with the probation condition, sought mental health assistance of his own volition and participated in the Family Violence Cognitive Self-Change Program. See re-sentencing -.
Charge/s: Assault occasioning actual bodily harm, assault.
Appeal type: Crown appeal against sentence.
Facts: During the course of an argument, the 31 year old respondent and his 60 year old mother (the first complainant) began pushing and shoving each other. This culminated in the respondent grabbing the complainant by the neck and pushing her, causing her to fall and fracture her wrist (assault occasioning actual bodily harm). Later that afternoon, the first complainant was visited by the male second complainant and his 4 children. The second complainant heard a revving noise and saw the respondent holding a chainsaw outside the window. The respondent said, ‘You fucking Australian cunt, come out here, I am going to cut you, like this’, and then tried to enter the backdoor. When he failed, the respondent picked up a fish gaff and swung it above his head (assault). The magistrate recorded a conviction and fined the respondent $1,000 for assault occasioning bodily harm and $1,500 for assault.
Issue/s: One of the grounds of appeal was that the sentences imposed were manifestly inadequate.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was allowed. The sentence for the assault occasioning actual bodily harm was manifestly inadequate. The respondent was not entitled to leniency in sentencing on the basis of his prior criminal history or on the basis of his plea. The sentence imposed gave little, if any, weight to the requirements of specific and general deterrence, nor did it reflect the objective seriousness of the offence, even taking into account the provocation from the complainant. The appellant was re-sentenced to a suspended sentence of 7 months imprisonment.
In reaching this conclusion, Burns J noted that this was clearly a domestic violence offence. He noted that, ‘It is now well settled that offences of domestic violence must be treated seriously, and frequently display aggravating features not present in offences occurring outside a domestic relationship. The only reason the respondent was in a position to commit the offence on his mother was because of that relationship. As such, the offence involved a serious breach of the trust reposed in the respondent as a son by his mother. Additionally, the age of the complainant was an aggravating circumstance attending the commission of the offence’at .
The sentence imposed by the magistrate in relation to the assault was also manifestly inadequate.
Charge/s: Common assault.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The appellant forcibly pulled sheets from on top of the complainant when she was in bed. The sheets caught on the complainant’s necklace and this caused pain and a red welt on her lower neck. The magistrate recorded a conviction.
Issue/s: A conviction should not have been recorded.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was allowed. The prosecution submitted that, as this was a family violence offence, it had a certain degree of seriousness and a conviction ought to be recorded. Burns J accepted that ‘there are circumstances and principles relating to family violence offences which that they must be taken particularly seriously’. However, the objective seriousness of the offence and the subjective circumstances of the offender are always relevant. Objectively, this offence came very close to the bottom of the range of seriousness of offences of this nature. Further, the appellant was otherwise a man of good character. He had no prior convictions and was spoken of highly in provided testimonials. Further, he was employed in an area in which the recording of a conviction would result in particular hardship (i.e. termination of employment). The conviction was set aside and a good behaviour order for a period of 12 months was imposed.
Charges: Contravening a domestic violence order (two counts)
Appeal type: Appeal against conviction and sentence
Facts: The appellant was subject to a domestic violence order that prohibited him from contacting his former partner (the applicant), behaving in a harassing manner towards her or threatening her. The appellant breached this order by making a number of phone calls to the applicant. He was charged with two counts of breaching the domestic violence order and was convicted of both charges. Those convictions amounted to a breach of two good behaviour orders previously made when the appellant was convicted of stalking and two additional counts of contravening a protection order in December 2007 and common assault in June 2007. He was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment on each of the counts of breaching the domestic violence order, to be served concurrently. On the breach of the first good behaviour order he was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, one month of which was to be cumulative on the other sentences. All the imprisonment to be served by periodic detention.
In convicting the appellant, the magistrate accepted evidence from the applicant and a friend that they recognised the appellant’s voice. The phone calls were allegedly made using a public phone, so this voice recognition was the only evidence to support that the appellant was guilty of the offences.
The appellant had a long history of criminal offending comprising of 52 charges. A pre-sentence report stated that the appellant had suffered a dysfunctional, violent and unstable family background. His father was an alcoholic and was violence towards his mother. The appellant also abused alcohol, drinking about six stubbies every night. Since the offending, the appellant reported that he was still drinking but not at a problematic level. However, there was no evidence to support these assertions. The appellant suffered from depression and anxiety that ‘result in markedly diminished capacity in judgement’, according to a psychologist’s report. Another psychologist concluded that the appellant’s offending history was alcohol induced and based.
The grounds of appeal against the sentence were:
Decision and reasoning: The appeal against the conviction was dismissed. In considering whether the appellant was guilty, the magistrate scrutinised the applicant’s evidence as to voice recognition carefully. Both witnesses knew the appellant well and recognised his voice on the phone. While the magistrate should have given a warning, it would have been confined to the fact that the conversations were limited and that people can be mistaken about the voices of those they know well. Despite the lack of warning, Refshauge ACJ held there was no miscarriage of justice, as even if a warning was given, it would not have affected the magistrate’s conclusion.
However, the appeal against the sentence was allowed and the appellant was ordered to be re-sentenced. The appellant’s offending was at the lower end of the spectrum of contravening a domestic violence order. However, the magistrate did not err in concluding that imprisonment was the appropriate punishment when considering his offending history and breaches of good behaviour orders. Rather, the magistrate erred in dismissing the option of suspending a term of imprisonment with a good behaviour order to include a community service condition. The offences were not so serious that a suspended sentence was too lenient.
Charge/s: Breach of a domestic violence order.
Appeal type: Appeal against refusal to grant bail.
Facts: Mr Hutchings breached an interim Domestic Violence Order by sending the female complainant a letter summarising his feelings towards her and the end of their relationship. This was also in breach of bail conditions imposed for a dangerous driving offence. He was granted bail with a condition included that he not contact the complainant in any way. The complainant later received a telephone call and message, alleged to be from Mr Hutchings. He was arrested and charged with breaches of the Domestic Violence Order. This activated s 9D of the Bail Act which provided that bail could not be granted unless there were special or exceptional circumstances favouring the grant of bail. The magistrate refused bail in those circumstances.
Issue/s: Whether there were special or exceptional circumstances favouring the grant of bail.
Decision and reasoning: The appeal was rejected. The Police were concerned that Mr Hutchings would commit further breaches of the Domestic Violence Order if allowed on bail. They noted that the complainant had made further complaints against Mr Hutchings but there was insufficient evidence to justify the commencement of proceedings. Burns J noted that the courts must be very cautious about relying on uncharged allegations but concluded that it was a concern to be taken into account . While Mr Hutchings’ daughter was pregnant and needed Mr Hutchings to drive her around, Burns J noted that she could make other arrangements . Accordingly, there were no special and exceptional circumstances justifying the grant of bail.
Charge/s: Assault occasioning actual bodily harm, assault, threatening to harm a public official, obstructing a public official.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The male appellant and the female victim of the two assaults were in a relationship. The first offence occurred when the intoxicated appellant swore at the victim and smashed a beer glass in her face. She required five stiches (assault occasioning actual bodily harm). At the watch house, the appellant threatened violence against police officers and resisted search attempts. On a subsequent occasion, the appellant and the victim were out drinking together and, during the course of argument, the appellant yelled, ‘I could kill you right now and no-one would ever know’. He then put the victim into a headlock, and head-butted and punched the complainant in the face (assault). A total head sentence of 36 months imprisonment was imposed with a non-parole period of 18 months.
Issue/s: The sentence for the assault occasioning actual bodily harm was manifestly excessive.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was allowed. The sentencing magistrate failed to take proper account of the appellant’s plea of guilty in sentencing (See ). Refshauge J noted that it is very desirable that a sentencing magistrate or judge makes express reference to the issue of a plea of guilty to show that it has been taken into account. Further, the sentencing magistrate did not address the relevant mental state of the appellant (intention or recklessness). Refshauge J stated, ‘there is no doubt that “glassing” is a serious offence, whether intentionally (significantly more serious) or recklessly. It is a cruel and vicious offence, especially where the damage done is to the victim’s face, the scars from which will be long obvious and distressingly disfiguring. It is a serious offence which ordinarily will need to be visited by a sentence of imprisonment, mostly served by full-time custody’ (See ). However, notwithstanding this, on the facts, it was more likely than not that the appellant did not intend to use the glass as a weapon (See ).
In re-sentencing the appellant, Refshauge J had regard to a letter from the victim. It showed that she was still devoted to the appellant and wanted to maintain their relationship. She stated, ‘ I know he is truly sorry for hurting me and the time he has spent in jail he has not wasted one day doing everything possible to completely turn his life around, every course available in the prison Egan has not only completed but done so with proud achievement’. This showed that the insight and rehabilitative opportunities noted in the original sentencing hearing had been fulfilled and the appellant had addressed his offending behaviour (See -). The appellant was re-sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for the assault occasioning bodily harm. The other sentences were confirmed leaving a head sentence of 30 months, with a non-parole period of 10 months.
Charge/s: Summary offence of assault.
Appeal type: Appeal against conviction.
Facts: The intoxicated male appellant started arguing with his partner (the female complainant) in their house. The appellant kicked a chair at the complainant and broke it. She threw the broken chair at him and he slapped her in the face. The complainant called the police. After discussion, the appellant agreed to plead guilty to a summary charge of assault and the prosecution agreed to make submissions not opposing the making of a non-conviction order. Her Honour refused to make a non-conviction order, convicted the appellant and imposed a 12 month good behaviour order.
Issue/s: One of the issues was that the sentencing process was flawed.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was upheld because the sentencing process in the Magistrates Court was flawed in light of further evidence provided about the agreement between the prosecution and the defence before the hearing. Although the appellant was not entitled to assume that the magistrate would make the orders that had been agreed upon, he was entitled to expect that the prosecution’s attitude to a non-conviction order would have been articulated during the hearing (See -).
Another sentence was appropriate in this case. The appellant had no criminal record nor any identified problem with alcohol or anger management. The offence was an isolated incident in which the complainant also took part. The couple had reconciled and were again living with their child. The appellant had a sound employment record, had already been punished by spending the night in police custody and was unable to return home for 3 weeks because of his bail conditions. Finally, the conviction would make it difficult for him to see his partner’s family in Vietnam (See -).
The appellant’s conviction was set aside and a good behaviour order imposed for 12 months. In re-sentencing the appellant, Penfold J stated:
‘However, the appellant should not interpret this conclusion as in any sense condoning of his use of physical violence on his partner (or anyone else for that matter). Rather, it is a recognition that while it is vital for domestic violence to be taken seriously by the police and the prosecuting authorities and the courts, it is also important for a victim of domestic violence to be able to call for help when she needs it in the belief that after her immediate needs have been addressed, the longer-term consequences of the call for help will be decided in a calmer environment in which her longer-term interests and wishes will also receive recognition. The appellant should be aware however, that if there were any repetition of this kind of behaviour by him, I expect that a sentencing court would take it very seriously’ (See ).
Charge/s: Assault occasioning actual bodily harm, assault x 3, damaging property x 2.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The male appellant and the female complainant were in a relationship. The appellant became very angry with the complainant and she got in her car with her daughter to leave. The appellant punched the driver’s side window of the car causing the window to shatter. He then punched the complainant in the nose and eye, causing her nose to bleed. On a subsequent occasion, in breach of his bail conditions, the intoxicated appellant went to the complainant’s house. He abused her saying, ‘he would kill her and hurt her,’ and put his right arm around her throat. He threw a jar and punched his fist through the microwave door. On a third occasion, again in breach of bail conditions, the appellant went to the complainant’s home with his teenage son. He grabbed her by the throat, punched her in the face, and kicked her. The appellant only stopped when the complainant’s 10 year old son called the police.
While the sentencing magistrate stated that she intended to impose a total sentence of 48 months, with a 24 months non-parole period, the accumulation of sentences the magistrate articulated in court was only a total of 30 months. However, amendments were subsequently made to the bench sheets to reflect what Her Honour intended.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was upheld. First, the parties should have been given an opportunity to be heard before the sentences were amended. This failure amounted to an error requiring the sentence to be set aside (See -). Second, the offences of damaging property were not in the worst category of offences — the damage was not considerable and there were no matters of aggravation of either offence such as planning or premeditation. The magistrate erred in imposing the imposition of the maximum penalty on these offences (See -).
Third, the sentence of 15 months imprisonment imposed for the second assault was excessive in light of the sentence of 18 months imprisonment for the first assault. The first assault was more serious. It involved the smashing of a window, the appellant caused the complainant’s nose to bleed, it was committed in the presence of a child, and the appellant pleaded not guilty to this offence (See -). Further, by merely accumulating the sentences for the three episodes, the sentencing magistrate could not be said to have applied the principle of totality (See -).
The appellant was re-sentenced by Refshauge J to a total sentence of 34 months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 15 months based on evidence that the appellant had taken steps to address his drug and alcohol use (See -). His Honour noted, ‘these offences are serious, particularly because they are offences of family violence, some committed in the presence of children, some committed whilst on bail and in breach of conditions of that bail. The repetition of assaults on the victim also makes the offences serious’ .
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The male appellant and his wife, the complainant, were involved in a lengthy argument regarding the conduct of the complainant’s daughter. The appellant swore at the complainant and said, ‘I’m going to kill you’. He then pushed the complainant on her forehead, causing her to fall backwards into her chair. The complainant went to her daughter’s bedroom and was followed by the appellant. The argument continued and at one point the appellant came so close he caused the complainant to stumble backwards onto the bed. The appellant pleaded guilty to assault. Counsel for the appellant sought a non-conviction sentence and the prosecution made no opposing submissions. The magistrate imposed a good behaviour order which required the appellant to subject to probation for 18 months and required the appellant to attend counselling on anger management and inter-personal relationships.
Issue/s: The condition of the good behaviour order requiring the appellant to be subject to probation for 18 months was manifestly excessive.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was allowed and the period of supervision set aside. This was an offence at the lower end of the scale of seriousness for such offences, notwithstanding that this was a family violence offence. It was committed by a person with no criminal history. Further, a substantial number of very positive references were submitted attesting to the appellant’s good character (See -).
The respondent submitted that weight had to be given to general and specific deterrence because this was a family violence offence. Refshauge J accepted this but noted that ‘supervision on probation is not ordinarily seen as part of the deterrent component of sentencing’. It is generally a rehabilitative part of sentencing. Here, unless actual supervision was required for a rehabilitative purpose, i.e. to ensure the appellant attended counselling, it was not appropriate to make a probation condition. There was no suggestion on the facts that the appellant would benefit from such guidance (See -).
Charge/s: Unlawful confinement.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The appellant unlawfully confined his former partner by forcing her into a taxi and compelling her to travel with him, against her will. He then took her to another person’s house where she was prevented from answering her phone. She was held captive for approximately 2 hours. The magistrate imposed a sentence of 20 months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 15 months.
Issue/s: One of the issues was that the sentence was manifestly excessive.
Decision and Reasoning: The appeal was dismissed. The sentence could not be said to be manifestly excessive. This was a very serious offence. Its seriousness was not diminished by the fact that it occurred within the context of a relationship breakdown, that it was not carried out for financial gain, and that it was committed in the presence of third parties. Further, the appellant had a long criminal history (See -).
Charge/s: Threatening to kill, failing to surrender firearms x 3, possessing a quantity of cannabis.
Appeal type: Appeal against refusal to grant bail.
Facts: Mr Breen, an Aboriginal man, was in a relationship with a woman and they had three children. Mr Breen rang the mother of his partner, asking if she knew where his partner was. He was extremely agitated and said, ‘If we were married, we would now be divorced’ and ‘I’ve got big problems with my head’. Mr Breen then said, ‘and if [his partner] gets boyfriends out of this, I will get my gun and blow all their heads off. I will kill us all. Better that than have them molested as I was’. Mr Breen stayed on the phone to his partner’s mother for an hour and on two occasions he threatened to kill the whole family. When police later arrived, Mr Breen said he was depressed and ‘wanted to end it all’. A search of the property uncovered three unregistered rifles and cannabis. He was arrested and was refused bail by a magistrate for ‘mental health issues’ and his access to ‘illicit’ firearms.
Issue/s: Whether Mr Breen should be granted bail.
Decision and reasoning: Section 9B of the Bail Act meant that the presumption in favour of bail did not apply. Refshauge J noted that, in determining whether to grant or refuse bail, the court had to engage in an assessment of ‘future risk’. Given that refusal of bail is tantamount to preventative detention, the court should not make a decision on the basis of suspicion or speculation (See -). His Honour stated, ‘the appropriate initial view was that this was a serious offence which was engendered in emotional circumstances where very serious violence, at least to Mr Breen himself if not to his partner and children, was threatened and where there were apparent means to carry out such a threat. This was exacerbated by the fact that Mr Breen clearly [had] some mental health issues which [made] the likelihood of unpredictable outcomes greater’ at .
However, on the basis of tendered evidence, Refshauge J was satisfied that the imposition of strict bail conditions could manage these concerns (See ). Mr Breen’s behaviour was caused by a mental impairment that was treatable (and treatment were already occurring). While Mr Breen had a worrying fascination with guns and weapons, he was not in a realistic position or had the immediate capacity to carry out his threat. There was no evidence to satisfy Refshauge J that Mr Breen’s partner would be in danger with the provision of suitable bail conditions. Mr Breen had work available and his parents were prepared to offer a cash surety.
Charge/s: Common assault.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The appellant and the complainant had been married for eight years and had two children. An argument arose between the appellant and the complainant. Their 12 year old son stepped between them but was pushed away by the appellant. The appellant grabbed the complainant by the hair, pulled her into the bedroom and threw her on the bed. The complainant called the appellant’s mother a prostitute and he twisted her arm behind her back and slapped her face several times. The police were called. The appellant made full admissions. In sentencing submissions, counsel for the appellant informed the magistrate that a conviction would prevent the family from migrating to Canada and asked for a short adjournment to procure such evidence from his office. The magistrate refused. The appellant was convicted and made subject to a good behaviour order for 12 months.
Issue/s: One of the grounds of appeal was that the magistrate failed to provide procedural fairness by not permitting an adjournment.
Decision and reasoning: The magistrate erred in refusing to allow an adjournment for the material relating to the potential barriers of a conviction to migrating to Canada to be procured. The adjournment would only have been brief and the issue of migration status was of major concern to the family. It was not appropriate to deny the appellant the opportunity of putting his case before the court just because his legal representation had failed to have the requisite documents on hand. The appeal was allowed and it fell to Refshauge J to re-sentence the appellant (See -).
In re-sentencing the appellant, His Honour had particular regard to the issues of the migration process to Canada and the views expressed by the complainant in a letter to the court. First, Refshauge J accepted that there was a real likelihood that in a case of domestic violence the appellant would be refused admission to Canada. This would adversely affect the family (See -). Second, in relation to the letter from the complainant, His Honour stated that:
‘In my view, there is a great danger in putting a victim of domestic violence in the position where they are seen to have some power to influence a sentence. This is often likely to be an intolerable choice between the bonds of affection which often persist despite the violence and their need for protection against recurrence and for the offender to be held accountable’ at .
His Honour accepted the letter for the following: the appellant had previously good character, the incident was a one-off occurrence, he voluntarily participated in an anger management course, and it confirmed the effect on the family if they were unable to migrate to Canada. But, in light of the issues mentioned above, accepting the letter as evidence of reconciliation needed to be treated with caution (See -).
The appellant had no prior convictions and previous good character. The offence was serious but at the lower end of the criminal calendar and, as a matter of marginal extenuation, the victim was equally as abusive. A non-conviction order was warranted because of the appellant’s immediate engagement in a rehabilitation program, his plea of guilty and early confession, and the risk to the family if their immigration plans were thwarted (See -).
Charge/s: Contravention of a protection order.
Hearing type: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: On 16 January 2007, the offender was found guilty for breaching a Domestic Violence Protection Order, protecting Ms Perrin (with whom he had two children). He drove past Ms Perrin’s residence, yelled at her, and summonsed another man at the premises to fight him. The offence was committed in breach of two earlier imposed and unrelated good behaviour orders for aggravated robbery and assault occasioning bodily harm (‘the 2004 offences’). Accordingly, it fell to Rares J to sentence the offender for the breach of the protection order and re-sentence the offender for the 2004 offences. At the time of sentencing, the offender and Ms Perrin had reconciled.
Decision and Reasoning: The offender was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, wholly suspended with conditions . In sentencing the offender, Rares J was satisfied that the offender had made a serious and concerted effort to turn his life around — the offender had stopped taking cannabis and alcohol, had obtained employment, paid for his own attendance with Ms Perrin at a Relationships Australia course, and had the support of his family and Ms Perrin’s family to make a good life for their children. His Honour also took into account the fact that he had pleaded not guilty to the offence of breaching the domestic violence order and that he had a prior criminal history.
Rares J noted that while he did not want to undermine the offender’s ‘terrific’ improvement, a penalty had to be crafted that appropriately reflected the offender’s criminality, the seriousness of the conduct and general deterrence. His Honour noted:
‘In many, many cases before the courts, the subjective impact of a punishment on an offender once brought to justice can be seen to be great. But to do justice according to law, must be to uphold the laws themselves and their purpose to ensure that we all obey the law. The community must know that offenders, whatever their personal circumstances are, receive a punishment that is appropriate and recognises the seriousness of the offending and the breaches of the community’s standards embodied in its criminal laws’ at .
Charge/s: Contravention of a protection order x 2.
Appeal type: Appeal against sentence.
Facts: The female complainant obtained a protection order against the male appellant, her former partner. In breach of this order, the appellant attended her home. When she refused to let him inside, he began yelling and attempted to break down the door. She called for help and the appellant fled. The next day, the appellant again tried to obtain entry to the complainant’s home. He struck and damaged the front door when he was refused entry and again ran off when he was told the police had been called. In December 2007, the offender was sentenced to 10 and 15 months imprisonment respectively for these breaches. Earlier, in May 2007, the offender had been sentenced for a number of other offences, including four charges of contravening a protection order. For the most serious of these breaches, he was sentenced to six months imprisonment to be served as periodic detention.
Issue/s: One of the grounds of appeal was that the sentence of 10 months imprisonment and 15 months imprisonment was manifestly excessive.
Decision and reasoning: The appeal was allowed. Penfold J noted that:
‘To the extent that punishing an offender ever more severely because of repeat offending, rather than because the individual offences have become more serious, is justifiable, such an approach must relate to the need for specific deterrence of an offender who appears unwilling to learn from previous penalties. Even in that case, the penalty must still remain referable in some way to the actual offence committed’ at .
Here, the sentence was manifestly excessive (See ). In particular, the two sentences imposed were at least twice as severe as the most severe penalty previously imposed for breach of a protection order in May 2007. However, if the May 2007 breaches were so much less severe than the conduct here, it was hard to see how they would have justified imprisonment at all (See ). Further, at the time of the August breaches, the offender had not served any full-time custody or even any periodic detention. It could not be assumed that his actions in August were informed by any understanding of the reality of a custodial sentence (See ). Other relevant mitigating factors were taken into account (See ).
The appellant was re-sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for each breach.
Charge/s: Contravention of a domestic violence order x 2.
Appeal type: Appeal against conviction and appeal against sentence.
Facts: The appellant’s former wife, with whom he had a daughter, obtained a domestic violence protection order against him, prohibiting contact. Shortly before the appellant left for an extended visit to the United States, the Family Court made an order which vacated this contact order. It stated that while the appellant was out of the country, he could send gifts and correspondence or postcards to his daughter provided that the contact was directed to the child and that he could send a photograph from time to time. When he was back in Australia, the appellant sent his daughter a package containing photographs, gifts and a letter. Additionally, the appellant mistakenly sent his former wife an email when he sent a group message to his siblings. He had previously been interviewed by police for a similar mistake. The appellant had spent 42 days in custody on remand. The magistrate imposed a six month term of imprisonment from the date he was taken into custody and directed he be released after serving 42 days, effectively that he be released the day following the hearing. He also imposed an 18 month good behaviour bond, subject to some conditions (see).
Decision and reasoning: The appeal was dismissed. First, His Honour held that: ‘[I]t is certainly fair to say that if a person seeks to rely on a Family Court order that varies what is otherwise a clear domestic violence order, it is incumbent upon that person to take steps to understand what the Family Court order says. And it seems to me that the Magistrate was perfectly entitled to find that Mr Miller was at least reckless in assuming that that order, which on its face only covers the time that he was out of the country, continued to apply after he had returned to Australia’ at .
Second, on its own, the email sent in error to his former wife would have been unlikely to meet the requisite standard of intent or recklessness. However, given that the appellant had made the same mistake before and had been interviewed by police for this, there was at least recklessness in relation to the sending of that message.
Third, the sentence could not be said to be manifestly excessive. His Honour noted that these were low level breaches of a domestic violence order, they involved recklessness rather than intent, and the nature of the correspondence in both the letter and the email was non-violent and non-threatening. However, the appellant had three prior appearances relating to seven convictions for breaches of a protection order. Connolly J stated:
‘It seems to me that even though these were lower level, indeed very low level breaches in the sense that there was no actual or apprehended or threatened violence, repeated breaches however low level, do inevitably meet with an increase in sentence on the basic premise that when low level sentences do not stop the offending behaviour a court has little option but to continue a pattern of steadily ramping up the sentence’ at .
Charge: Assault occasioning actual bodily harm
Facts: The offender and victim had previously been in a relationship and had two children together. The offender and victim’s version of events differed. The victim alleged that after consuming alcohol with the offender one night, the offender dragged her out of bed, hit her three time in the face and put his hands around her neck and pushed his thumbs into her throat. While doing so, the offender said something to the effect of “Slut, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you”. When she woke up the next morning the offender continued to follow and abuse her. The offender said that the offending occurred after he blacked out after drinking substantial amounts of alcohol. He said that the assault occurred after the victim, who was drunk, was following him between pubs and abused him verbally and physically by kicking him. After she got in an altercation with a patron, she was removed from the pub and was spoken to by police officers. The offender agreed to take the victim home, where they sat outside smoking marijuana and drinking bourbon. They then got in an argument over their children and the victim struck the offender. According to the offender, this is when he grabbed her throat and beat the victim.
Higgins CJ, after hearing corroborating witnesses, accepted that the assault occurred in the way described by the offender. However, he did not suggest that the victim was fabricating her account: ‘She was savagely beaten, she had a lot to drink and it is unsurprising that some of the details became confused in her mind’ ().
In relation to this conduct the offender was charged and pleaded guilty to one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
For three months prior to the assault, the offender had undergone rehabilitation at Oolong House. He had a long history of offending, including 28 prior assaults. Most of the previous offending occurred after the offender had consumed alcohol. While he acknowledged his alcohol abuse, the offender did not consider he needed drug and alcohol intervention. He also admitted to feeling ‘horrified by what he had done’ and said ‘violence towards women is not in his makeup and he has no excuses for what he has done’.
Issue: What sentence should the offender receive?
Decision and reasoning: The offender was sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 18 months. While the preceding conduct on the night of the offending and the alcohol abuse engaged in by both the parties may explain the offending, it did not excuse it. There were some prospects of rehabilitation for the offender. However, having regard to the severity of the attack and the offender’s criminal history and alcohol abuse, a sentence of imprisonment was appropriate: ‘No other sentence will say to men who abuse women that such conduct is abhorrent and will result in severe punishment whatever the status or record of the offender’ ().
In considering the purposes of sentencing domestic violence offending, Higgins CJ noted that while alcohol may have been a triggering factor, offenders must take responsibility for their actions and be seen to do so. As domestic violence offences are often hidden, general deterrence is also an important consideration in sentencing. So too is specific deterrence. Higgins CJ emphasised that domestic violence ‘is a pernicious and evil phenomenon not only because of the immediate trauma to the victim. Its evil influence spreads to children as well. It is no coincidence that, in my experience, young offenders, more often than not, present with a family history of domestic violence. It used to be regarded as a family matter, to be kept private. Victims would be made to feel humiliated, and ashamed to complain; in truth it is entirely the criminal conduct of the perpetrator which is at fault. It is entirely in the public interest that such conduct be exposed and deterred’ ().
Appeal type: Appeal against refusal of a magistrate to revoke a Domestic Violence Order.
Facts: On 22 October 2003, a Domestic Violence Order was made by the Deputy Registrar of the Magistrates Court for the protection of the female respondent against the appellant, with whom she was in a sexual relationship. Both parties had disabilities. During their ‘physical relationship’, the respondent suffered three separate fractures of her legs. She had no history of such injuries prior to the physical relationship and no history of such injuries subsequent to the physical relationship. On 24 May 2004, the Order was varied by consent and in particular the Order restrained and prohibited the male appellant from taking certain actions in relation to the respondent. The appellant applied to have the order revoked but a magistrate declined to revoke the Order. His Honour concluded that the physical nature of the relationship represented a genuine risk to the well-being of the respondent.
Issue/s: The magistrate erred in failing to revoke the order. His Honour made three errors in reaching his decision to not revoke the order –
Decision and reasoning: The appeal was dismissed. First, the location of where the injuries occurred was not relevant because it was the physical relationship that caused the injuries. Second, there was no evidence that the counselling had been concluded nor that it would reduce the likelihood of injury if the physical relationship was to continue. Accordingly, this was not a relevant consideration. Finally, the magistrate did consider the fact that such a relationship was likely to continue on the basis of evidence before him.
Further, the magistrate did not fail to take into account the fact that persons with disabilities had the same basic rights as other members of Australian society. The magistrate specifically referred to the wishes of the respondent to continue the relationship with the appellant. However, His Honour concluded that the risk to the respondent resulting from such a relationship as such that he was unable to be satisfied that the order preventing such a relationship was no longer necessary for her protection.
Charge/s: Unlawful confinement, assault occasioning bodily harm.
Hearing type: Sentencing hearing.
Facts: The offences occurred after the male offender and his wife, the complainant, had separated and the offender had moved out of the family home. He occasionally stayed overnight to see the children. After seeing his wife kiss another man, the offender arrived at the family home late at night, when the children were present in the house. The complainant let him in and went back to bed. The offender followed her and sat on top of her. He placed a sharp object against her throat and said, ‘This is a knife. If you move I will fucking kill you’. He then placed pre-cut strips of duct tape over the complainant’s mouth and eyes. He bound her wrists and ankles and tied her hands and feet together. He said, ‘You’ll have your wish — you’ll see me die tonight, you’ll see me die’.
The complainant had difficulty breathing and the offender removed the duct tape. He interrogated her about her relationship with the other man, hitting her several times around the head and shoulders. He left the room saying, ‘If you fucking move I’ll kill you’ and returned with a telephone book. The offender asked for the other man’s phone number before leaving the room again. The complainant heard him enter the nearby bedroom, occupied by two of their daughters and heard him say, ‘Now take this darling. I know it tastes awful, doesn’t it’.
He returned to the complainant and resumed interrogating her, striking her. He said multiple times that he was going to kill himself and take the children with him. The offender eventually became tearful and untied the complainant. She rang the emergency number and asked for an ambulance, thinking her children had been poisoned. The police and ambulance arrived. The children were unharmed. The offender left the premises and went to the police station the next morning.
Decision and Reasoning: The offender was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment for unlawful confinement and 3 years imprisonment for assault, concurrent and a non-parole period of 18 months. Crispin J took into account a number of subjective factors in imposing this sentence. The offender pleaded guilty. At the time the offender entered the house, while there was some measure of pre-meditation in the appellant’s actions (the decision to confine and interrogate the complainant), the offender did not intend to threaten the complainant with a knife or to kill his children. The offender stopped the violence and threats of his own volition.
At the time of offending, the offender was suffering from serious psychological illnesses including acute depression and adjustment order. It was submitted on the offender’s behalf that, because of this illness, this made the offender an inappropriate vehicle for general deterrence. Crispin J disagreed and stated,
‘The extent of his psychological condition is relevant to the issue of general deterrence but, in my view, the need to protect former spouses or partners from conduct of this nature cannot be so easily dismissed. Many people no doubt experience great stress upon the breakup of their marriages or other close relationships and in some cases they may suffer from symptoms of an underlying psychological illness or even become psychologically ill for the first time. One may and should respond with sympathy. However, when a person commits serious criminal acts against a former spouse or partner the court must take into account the need to deter other people from similar conduct. The risk of serious injury and, as in this case, grave emotional trauma may be at least as serious when the offender is psychologically ill. Accordingly, the need for deterrence should be given due recognition, though the weight which should be given to that factor will vary according to the circumstances of the case, and the actual sentences must be determined by reference to all relevant factors’ (See ).
Other relevant factors included that the offender was remorseful, he had no prior convictions and was previously a committed father and a person of impeccable character. He had taken steps to obtain counselling and achieved a significant measure of rehabilitation. He had already been imprisoned for 8 months and this caused significant distress in light of his inability to see his children and his potential to be a suicide risk.
However, Crispin J was unable to accept counsel submissions that the offender should be released on parole immediately. The offences were too serious to be dealt with in that manner — the complainant was confined for an extended period and intended to cause significant fear in the complainant.
Charge/s: Robbery with an offensive weapon.
Trial: Judge only trial.
Facts: On 20 November 1996, Ms Lorenz (‘the accused’) entered a supermarket and attempted to purchase some cigarettes with her EFTPOS card from the complainant. The transaction could not be completed because there were insufficient funds in the account. The accused maintained she was sure there were funds in the account and re-tried the card but it was again declined. She then left the store. Ten minutes later, the accused returned to the store with a pen knife. She approached the complainant, held the knife out in front of her and said, ‘give me all your fucking money or I’ll slit your throat’. The complainant gave the accused $360 in cash and the accused left the store. While initially denying any involvement, the accused made admissions to the police.
Counsel for the accused argued that the accused was acting out of duress on the basis of a threat made by Ms Lorenz’s partner on the night before the robbery and repeated the following morning to the effect that if she did not obtain enough money to enable him to re-register his car he would kill her. This threat followed a pattern of violent and threatening behaviour towards the accused over a number of years (See ). On the morning of the robbery, the accused, who was pregnant with the couple’s third child, found out that she was unable to get the immediate payment of an advance payment from the Department of Social Security to pay the re-registration.
Decision and Reasoning: There was some discussion in this case of ‘battered woman syndrome’ (See -). Crispin J accepted that upon failing to receive advance payment from the Department of Social Security, the accused became frightened and confused and the robbery was an impulsive act due to her fear that her partner would kill her. His Honour stated: ‘In my view her failure to attempt to extricate herself from the situation whether by leaving him or otherwise is largely explicable by her fear and confusion. Furthermore, she may have thought that any escape would have been only temporary and that sooner or later [her partner] would have been bound to have caught up with her and carried out his threat’ at .
However, ‘a diagnosis of battered woman syndrome does not of itself give rise to any defence. The law does not recognise any general principle that people should be absolved from criminal conduct because they had been beaten or abused or because a psychological condition caused by such treatment may have led them to commit the offences with which they are charged. Nonetheless, evidence that such a person may have had a psychological condition of this kind may be relevant to several defences known to the law’ at .
Here, counsel for the appellant unsuccessfully attempted to rely on the defence of duress. In the accused’s favour, His Honour found that the threat was effective at the time of the offence, the accused did not fail to take advantage of a reasonable opportunity to render the threat ineffective, and, in light of the extremity of the actual and threatened violence displayed by the accused’s partner, a person of ordinary firmness of mind may have acted in the way the accused did (See -). However, the accused’s partner did not direct the accused to commit the offence and accordingly the defence of duress failed (See -). In the alternative, counsel for the accused attempted to rely on the defence of necessity. However, His Honour held that the imminence of danger fell well short of the required standard for the successful proof of the defence (See -). She was accordingly found guilty.
The accused left her partner shortly after the robbery and had formed a relationship with another man. She had just turned 23, had three children and was pregnant to her new partner. The new relationship was apparently a happy one. In these circumstances, and to give her the opportunity to start a new life for herself and her children, Crispin J found it appropriate to defer passing sentence on the condition that she enter into recognisance to be of good behaviour for a period of three years.