DV victim wins appeal against sentence for unlawful killing of partner

The Queensland Court of Appeal has shaved nine months off the prison term of a woman who killed her partner after being subjected to serial domestic violence.

In Brisbane last week the court granted the woman’s application against the nine-year sentence imposed for the manslaughter of John Windle on MacLeay Island, 30km south-east of Brisbane, on 23 April 2018.

The woman, identified here as RHB, pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Supreme Court on 27 October 2020 to one count of manslaughter, with the aggravating feature of being a domestic violence offence.

The sentencing judge ordered that RHB, who stabbed Mr Windle to death with a hunting knife, be considered eligible for parole after serving three years and nine months of her nine-year prison term.

RHB appealed the sentence on the grounds it was manifestly excessive and that she should be considered eligible for parole after serving one-third (three years) of the sentence.

The Court of Appeal, comprising President Justice Walter Sofronoff and Justices Philip McMurdo and David Boddice, last week unanimously granted RBH’s appeal and ordered she be considered eligible for parole immediately – rather than the original sentenced consideration date of 22 January 2022.

The court, in a four-page written judgment, noted that RHB had a history of “having sustained repeated serial domestic violence” throughout her life and was sentenced with consideration being given that she was likely to react “aggressively when threatened or assaulted by a domestic partner”.

“(Mr Windle) and (RBH) had been in a domestic relationship for some months prior his death,” the court said. “During that relationship, the deceased had committed acts of domestic violence against (RBH) … (and) was the subject of a domestic violence protection order.

“The relationship (between Mr Windle and RBH) was characterised by irrational jealousy on the part of the deceased. There was evidence that (RHB) had, in the months before the death, told an acquaintance that if the deceased continued to accuse her of sleeping with other (people), she would stab him.”

The court said that whether a sentence – such as that imposed on RHB – warranted mitigation reflecting an earlier parole eligibility date at the usual mandated one-third point always turned on the particular circumstances of the case.

“A sentence of nine years’ imprisonment properly reflected (RBH’s) criminality (in this case),” the court said. “However, (RBH) sincere and obvious remorse, and her significant steps towards rehabilitation against a background of a timely plea of guilty (to the charge of manslaughter), support a conclusion that (she) ought to receive a parole eligibility date fixed after having served three years of that sentence.

“We would order the appeal against sentence be granted … (and RHB) be eligible for parole on 22 April 2021.”

RBH is now eligible to make application to Parole Board Queensland to be released from detention.

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