Court grants young offender with cruel upbringing early release

A Queensland court has granted early prison release to a teenager jailed for a violent home invasion after noting he had been subjected to a highly dysfunctional, cruel and brutal upbringing that included being beaten and “chained up like a dog’’ as a child.

The Court of Appeal in Brisbane has granted an appeal to reduce the jail term imposed on a man, identified here as LHMV, but in doing so acknowledged the decision would trigger his “almost inevitable deportation” to New Zealand – the country of his birth but where he has few friends or family for support.

Court of Appeal Justice Soraya Ryan, in a 12-page decision published on Tuesday, said LHMV, then aged 19, was armed with a knife when he and up to 10 other men staged a “planned invasion” of a Cairns home and violently attacked three people as they slept on 9 August 2019.

Justice Ryan noted LHMV, who was born in New Zealand but had spent much of the past 10 years living in Australia, had accumulated an unenviable “four-page criminal history” for myriad offences of violence, including in a domestic setting, stealing, weapons possession, property damage and assorted drug offences.

However, Justice Ryan said: “(LHMV had endured) a dysfunctional upbringing. His parents had children with multiple partners … (and he) has ‘approximately’ 12 siblings.

“His father, whom (LHMV) described as ‘disturbed’, beat him and chained him up ‘like a dog’. He left his father’s (Australian-based) home when he was 15 or 16 … (and) does not know where his father is now living and … his mother is deceased.”

On 21 September (2020), Cairns District Court Judge Leanne Clare sentenced LHMV to 6½ years’ jail, with a recommendation for parole consideration after serving one third of the term.

LHMV had pleaded guilty to six charges, including burglary with violence, whilst armed and in company of others, assault causing bodily harm, and two counts of wounding.

“(Judge Clare) said the level of violence involved (in the home invasion) was shocking and described (LHMV’s actions of) cruelty as cowardly,” Justice Ryan said.

“(Judge Clare) was (also) aware that upon his release from prison (LHMV) was likely to be deported (to New Zealand).”

Lawyers for LHMV appealed the sentence on the grounds it was manifestly excessive.

The Court of Appeal, comprising Justices Ryan, Phillip McMurdo and President Justice Walter Sofronoff, set aside the initial sentence, substituting it with one of five years’ jail to be suspended after LHMV has served 22 months’ in jail.

“In my view… (LHMV’s) offending, considered globally, called for a sentence of five years’ imprisonment,” Justice Ryan said. “Because (LHMV) will almost inevitably be deported upon his release from custody, the potential for meaningful parole supervision is illusory … (and his five-year jail sentence should) be suspended after (he) has served 22 months of it.”

In making the orders, Justice Ryan said: “A sentencing court must impose a sentence which is just in all of the circumstances.”

“In the present case, the circumstances include (LHMV’s) almost inevitable deportation – thereby depriving him of the opportunity to make a life for himself in Australia; his being returned to New Zealand as a young man without a mother to receive him and with only distant relationships with his siblings; and, uncertainty about the time he will spend in immigration detention prior to his deportation.’’

LHMV had already served more than 11 months in custody at the time he was originally sentenced by Judge Clare.

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