Court of Appeal doubles jail term for child attacker who ‘wrecked’ man’s life

The Queensland Court of Appeal has granted an appeal to more than double the actual detention imposed on a child involved in a violent alleged “revenge” attack which left his victim with serious injuries and effectively “wrecked his life”.

On Friday the court granted an appeal by the Attorney-General to increase the custodial sentence given to a boy – identified as ‘Eric’ – who was 17 at the time of the attack and is now 18 for an act of grievous bodily harm (GBH) on 18 October 2019.

The court was told that Beenleigh Childrens Court Judge Craig Chowdhury sentenced Eric in December last year to a period of five months’ detention, followed by 12 months’ of community supervision by way of a probation order and that no criminal conviction be recorded against the child.

Eric had pleaded guilty to fracturing the skull of a 21-year-old man, identified here as ‘AAA’, by beating him with a metal pole and leaving him with a myriad of short to long-term physical and mental health injuries that have essentially “wrecked his life”.

Judge Chowdhury’s decision was appealed by the Queensland Attorney-General on the grounds the sentence was manifestly inadequate.

The Court of Appeal, made up of President Justice Walter Sofronoff and Justices Philip McMurdo and David Boddice, agreed and increased Eric’s sentence to two years’ detention, suspended after serving 12 months and that a criminal conviction be recorded.

The decision means Eric will be required to serve out his year-long sentence in an adult correctional facility.

At his sentencing hearing, the prosecution submitted Eric was one of a group of nine young people – six male and three female – involved in an attack on another group – consisting of three men and two women – at a park south of Brisbane.

Prosecutors said the assault was triggered amid allegations Eric’s victim had been an associate of a person identified as ‘Hennessy’ who may or may not have – based on hearsay comments from a young woman friend – sexually assaulted another unidentified friend.

Justice Sofronoff, in an eight-page written decision, noted Eric attacked his 21-year-old male victim about the head with a metal pole, and that his young associates joined in on the attack as an act of so-called “revenge” for the perceived sexual assault on so-called friend of a friend.

The court was told Eric was not identified as AAA’s attacker until police sought public assistance and information that resulted in a tip-off that the assault had been filmed and uploaded to an Instagram social media account. Footage obtained by police, obtained under a court-issued warrant, showed Eric as the perpetrator of the attack on AAA.

“The consequences (of the attack on AAA) were very serious,” Justice Sofronoff said. “The blow (inflicted by Eric) fractured his skull and he suffered external and internal bleeding… (and) remained in hospital between 19 October … until discharged on 5 December 2019.

“While (AAA) is now able to function independently in relation to personal care, bathing grooming and eating, he is unable to perform other ordinary daily activities. In short, (Eric’s) unprovoked bashing of (AAA) has wrecked his life.”

A medical report tendered to the court revealed AAA now has severely impaired memory, cognitive communication deficits and experiences low mood and anxiety accompanied with dizziness, nausea, headaches and sleeping difficulties resulting in constant fatigue. He also remains unemployed, had his driver’s licence cancelled and needs assistance with “cooking, cleaning, laundry and other such issues”.

In Eric’s favour, the three appeal court judges accepted there was a “great deal to be said” to support the view the child had the capacity and could be “expected to form the foundation of a good character into manhood and beyond”.

“This has been demonstrated by (Eric’s) prompt return to a path of decency (since the assault), by his insight into the gravity of what he has done to (AAA) and how he has affected the lives of (AAA’s) loved ones,” Justice Sofronoff said.

“(Eric’s) willingness to engage in the Restorative Justice Process (which required he meet and communicate with his victim) and his success in that endeavour shows him to be a young man of fundamentally good character.”

However, Justice Sofronoff said Eric’s attack on AAA was a pre-meditated violent offence and a brutal and dangerous attack.

“The sentence of five months’ detention imposed (Eric) was the result of erroneous reasoning and was, in any case, inadequate having regard to the nature of the offence, its objective circumstances and the effect upon the offender’s victim,” his Honour said.

Justices McMurdo and Boddice agreed.

Real the full decision in R v Eric (a pseudonym); Ex parte Attorney-General (Qld) [2021] QCA 81.

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