26 July 2023

Man avoids jail following 'very bad judgement call' that led to party bonfire explosion

| Claire Fenwicke
Benjamin Francis Crutchett

Benjamin Francis Crutchett avoided prison time over the ‘very bad judgement call’ to throw an aerosol can into a fire. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A man who threw an aerosol can into a fire – which then exploded and seriously burned his two friends – has told a court the incident taught him a “harsh lesson” to “never throw caution to the wind when it comes to people’s safety”.

Benjamin Francis Crutchett learned his punishment after being charged with and pleading guilty to two counts of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm.

He had written to the Supreme Court explaining he accepted full responsibility for his “very bad judgement call”.

“Although excessive alcohol consumption played a part in my decision-making at the time, I take full responsibility for creating this dangerous situation, which was lucky not to cost someone their life,” Crutchett said.

“I understand how serious this is and that [my victims] will carry the physical and psychological scars from this for the rest of their lives.”

Crutchett wrote that he had previously been attacked by a fellow employee, which had left him needing several surgeries.

This led to him drinking and smoking cannabis “excessively” to manage his depression and anxiety, however since his arrest he had taken steps to control his addictions through drug and alcohol counselling, as well as volunteering with Red Cross and St Vincent de Paul to give back to society and improve his mental health.

“Me being the cause of something as horrific and traumatic as this has made me realise all the problems I had in my life were insignificant,” Crutchett wrote.

“I have grown a lot since the incident, learnt some very harsh lessons and built resilience skills. I know that I have some way to go but I am determined to stay on track.”

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The court also heard about the impacts the explosion had on the two victims.

One woman suffered serious burns to 6 per cent of her body and had to be put in an induced coma.

She wrote in her victim impact statement there was a “me before it happened and me now”.

“The whole situation feels like a big, black, engulfing cloud that follows me everywhere I go,” she wrote.

While the other victim, who has needed ongoing plastic surgery and had skin grafts on her face, explained this incident would stay with her for the rest of her life.

“My face has changed and I have scars that will never go away,” she said.

Both women have ongoing medical costs.

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Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson acknowledged whatever sentence she imposed would resolve the physical or psychological impacts on the two women.

She also detailed Crutchett had a “limited” criminal history and his steps towards rehabilitation since he was charged were an important consideration in her sentencing.

Justice Loukas-Karlsson handed Crutchett a suspended sentence of two years and six months, with a good behaviour order that will end in January 2026.

Conditions included continuing his drug and alcohol treatment and psychiatric treatment, as well as completing 100 hours of community service.

Speaking directly to Crutchett, she said this wasn’t a lenient sentence, but it reflected his positive outlook for rehabilitation.

“Please remember, every day for the rest of your life, every day you must spend becoming a better version of yourself,” Justice Loukas-Karlsson said.

Crutchett hugged his supporters in relief when court was adjourned.

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