5 March 2023

Man who destroyed evidence from fatal skatepark brawl handed community sentence

| Albert McKnight
The scene of the police investigation at the skatepark at Weston

The scene of the police investigation at the skatepark at Weston in 2020. Photo: Michael Weaver.

A man linked to the fatal brawl at the Weston Creek skatepark because he destroyed evidence from the scene was allowed to leave “soul-sucking” Canberra when he was handed a community-based sentence, which a court heard contained no aspect of deterrence.

An 18-year-old was killed and a 16-year-old was stabbed in the back when the fight broke out at the skatepark on 27 September 2020.

The next day, some of those involved met up at the then-18-year-old man’s house where a 15-year-old admitted stabbing someone at the brawl and pulled a hat out of his pants.

The man told him, “Give it here; I’ll get rid of it”. He took the hat, which belonged to the boy who was stabbed in the back, put it in a plastic bag and burnt it a few days later.

The 20-year-old fought his charge at an ACT Supreme Court trial last year that ended with the jury finding him guilty of destroying evidence with the intention of influencing a decision about starting a legal proceeding.

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His mother was called over the phone when he appeared for his sentencing on Friday (3 March), and she told the court she had been diagnosed with cancer and was living in Queensland.

She wanted her son to move in with her so he could have a “fresh start” and no longer associate with negative peers.

“It has really put a big dent on my son’s heart and his mental health … that he can’t get a break,” she said.

She accepted her son had still been using cannabis but said it “isn’t as bad as the heroin”.

“He won’t be smoking it up here because it’s not legal, and I’m not having it around my daughter,” she said.

But she refused to permit prosecutors to call her doctor to confirm her cancer diagnosis, embarking on a rant that included saying, “I’m not having my fresh start destroyed because of Canberra’s system”, and remarking how staying in the ACT had been “soul sucking”.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum told her “everybody is bending over backwards” to get a solution for her son that prioritised his rehabilitation.

After the call with the mother ended, the chief justice said she was considering making a good behaviour order, although Crown prosecutor Trent Hickey said it was “hard to see any deterrence in that sentence” in the circumstances where a serious crime had been investigated.

The chief justice accepted there was no deterrence but said, “you can’t always achieve all the purposes of sentencing”.

She said it was clear “Canberra is no place for him”, and he could not start on the path of rehabilitation if he stayed in the Territory.

When handing down her sentence, she said the seriousness of the man’s crime was low and his moral culpability was considerably reduced.

She also said the fact that his actions had no discernible impact on the efficacy of the prosecution in the matter was also relevant.

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The man was convicted and handed a two-year good behaviour order with conditions that he lives with his mother and does not commit any offence – including smoking cannabis in Queensland as it is illegal in the state.

Last year, a jury found the then-15-year-old stabber not guilty of murdering the 18-year-old during the fight, although he did admit stabbing the 16-year-old for which he was handed a suspended sentence.

He has since been accused of reprisal against a witness in his trial.

All of the offenders in this matter are legally unable to be named due to their ages at the time or suppression orders.

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