Queensland’s highest court has rejected an appeal to reduce the 7½-year jail term meted out to a person who pleaded guilty to domestic violence manslaughter in the state’s top end.
The Court of Appeal in Brisbane yesterday published its decision to dismiss Christabel Roxina Solomon’s appeal against the sentence imposed for the unlawful killing of her partner Noel William Amino, 25, during a domestic dispute in the Cape York settlement of Lockhart River on 8 October 2019.
Solomon, 29, pleaded guilty in the Townville Supreme Court in October 2020 to stabbing and killing Amino during a heated domestic incident.
Sentencing judge David North recommended Solomon be eligible for immediate parole after having already served more than two years of the 7½-year jail term in pre-sentence custody.
Justice North, in making an immediate parole order, noted Solomon had herself been subjected to a “history of significant domestic violence committed against her” prior the unlawful killing.
“It would seem a reasonable inference from the evidence that you anticipated that this argument would become more heated and matters might go from bad to even worse,” Justice North said during his sentencing remarks.
“It appears you were prepared to brandish the knife if matters developed as you feared. Your offending was very serious.”
Solomon subsequently appealed Justice North’s decision on the sole ground the sentence was manifestly excessive.
The Court of Appeal, comprising Justices Philip McMurdo, John Bond and Kerri Mellifont, refused Solomon leave to appeal the sentence.
Justice Mellifont, in an 11-page decision published on Tuesday, said: “When one has regard to all of the circumstances of the case … it cannot be said that a sentence of 7½ years’ imprisonment with immediate parole eligibility is unreasonable or plainly unjust.”
“Although it would have been open for his Honour (Justice North) to impose a shorter sentence, it cannot be said that the sentence imposed is manifestly excessive.
“It should also be observed that it was submitted before the learned sentencing judge, and here (in the COA), that the sentence imposed should be a suspended sentence rather than a sentence with a parole recommendation.
“It can be accepted that given (Solomon’s) significant attempts at rehabilitation while in custody, including education with respect to domestic violence, her work within the prison in positions of trust, her irrelevant criminal history, that it cannot be assumed she would not be without family support in the community, that she is not a very young person, that she is not a drug addict, and that she has spent two years in custody, this is not a case where parole rather than a suspended sentence was the only option.
“However, that does not invalidate the choice made by the learned sentencing judge to make an order for parole eligibility.”
During her sentencing hearing, Solomon had asked for a wholly suspended prison term based on lengthy delays being experienced by many inmates to have their matters heard by Parole Board Queensland (PBQ).
In September, QLS Proctor revealed numerous prison inmates being detained long after their recommended parole release dates had swamped the Supreme Court with applications for judicial reviews in a bid to avoid delays of up to nine months for parole hearings.
Early last year, the then Queensland Law Society President Elizabeth Shearer sent a submission to the state government alerting them to the fact the Society had received concerning information from its members and stakeholders that PBQ was taking more than eight months – up to 250 days in some cases – to consider inmate applications rather than the 120-day maximum mandated under the Corrective Services Act 2006.
Justice Mellifont’s decision was unanimously supported by Justices McMurdo and Bond, saying: “For the reasons given by (Justice) Mellifont, (we) join in the order for the refusal of this application.”
Read the decision.