Brawlers from the fatal fight at the Weston Creek skatepark have all been spared time behind bars, with a magistrate recognising several had themselves been victims of vigilante attacks.
An 18-year-old man was stabbed to death at the skatepark on 27 September 2020 and a teenager, then aged 15, has been charged with his murder.
Six youths and adults who all pleaded guilty to their roles in the fight were sentenced in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday (30 September), where Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker said she was acutely aware that the first anniversary of the 18-year-old’s death had just been passed and she expressed her condolences to his family for their loss.
Magistrate Walker was also satisfied that unknown people had unleashed a “campaign of violence” against offenders Montgomery Cole White, Tim* and David*.
She said people attacked Tim and his girlfriend, $30,000 in damage had been caused to White’s family and David, whose offending was “somewhat peripheral” because he had only driven one of the cars to the skatepark and not joined in the fight, suffered an arson attack at his parent’s home.
Magistrate Walker discussed the context of the incident, saying it showed “how quickly trivial matters can escalate and how tragically wrong they can go”.
The events began on 26 September 2020, when Jack* was in a Snapchat conversation with his ex-girlfriend who recorded their messages. These were then seen by Tim, who began to message Jack even though they had never met before.
Their exchange grew abusive and Magistrate Walker said Jack, who had become enraged by a perceived slight from his ex-girlfriend, made “vile, provocative and juvenile” comments.
“I’ll kill your f-king family c-t. I’ll piss on your mum’s grave,” Jack said. The two 16-year-olds agreed to meet at the skatepark for a fight.
Jack organised for the 18-year-old victim to drive him and two others to the fight in a Toyota 86 coupe. Tim and another teen were driven there by his girlfriend, picking up the 15-year-old murder accused on their way.
Emmanuel Umunakwe, 19, was asked to come along “in case things just went south”, so 17-year-old David drove him, 25-year-old Jaxson Dillon Kirkwood and 18-year-old White to the skatepark.
They all arrived just after midnight on 27 September. Tim and another 17-year-old approached the Toyota 86 and punched Jack multiple times while he was still in the car before Jack kneed him in the groin.
Around the same time, White and Kirkwood pulled the victim out of the 86. White punched him in the face and ribs while Kirkwood punched him about five times. Umunakwe attempted to pull the victim off White before letting go.
A 16-year-old in the Toyota 86 began brandishing a machete, so Kirkwood, White and Umunakwe went to the Triton and grabbed a pickaxe, shovel and plastic rake respectively and used the tools to smash the 86. The $21,000 car had only been purchased a few months earlier and was written off.
The 18-year-old victim was stabbed to death during the fight and Jack was stabbed in his lower back and hip. The whole incident lasted about three minutes.
Magistrate Walker said Jack had been a talented sportsman but now suffered from pain due to his stab wounds and was unlikely to play elite sport again.
Tim “stupidly” became involved in a matter that didn’t concern him, she said, and while he was also one of the instigators of the fight, she did accept he had been provoked.
But he also started a two-on-one fight against Jack, instead of the one-on-one fight that had been agreed to.
Magistrate Walker said White, a third-year apprentice plumber, had launched a pre-emptive attack on the 18-year-old victim when he punched him in the head and said his offending was a typical example of “bravado”.
She said Kirkwood had written a letter where he appeared to try to minimise his role and also told the author of a court report he would engage in similar conduct if necessary in the future, so showed a “concerning lack of insight” into his actions.
Umunakwe felt a “misplaced sense of obligation” to look after Tim, she said, and played a minor role in the assault on the 18-year-old victim.
The tyre fitter’s family had been granted asylum in Australia and he was on a protection visa, so his lawyer had asked for his charges to be dismissed as he risked being deported.
While Magistrate Walker said being deported would be a “very harsh outcome”, she did not make a non-conviction order.
All of the offenders, except for David, were convicted.
Kirkwood was sentenced to seven months’ jail and White to four months, both fully suspended for 12-month good behaviour orders. Umunakwe was handed an 18-month good behaviour order. The three young offenders also received good behaviour orders.
* The three young offenders are given pseudonyms as they cannot be named due to their ages at the time of the incident.