1 November 2021

Meat cleaver-brandishing stranger also set fire to inmate's clothes in prison

| Albert McKnight
Cody Thomas Watts

Cody Thomas Watts, 22, leaves Canberra’s court when he was released from custody on Monday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Locked up after chasing strangers with a meat cleaver outside McDonald’s, a knife-obsessed young man went on to set another inmate’s clothes on fire while he was in jail.

But Cody Thomas Watts, 22, was spared more time behind bars when he was released from custody after being sentenced by the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday (25 October).

According to Magistrate Glenn Theakston, the most serious offending happened on 7 March 2021 at East Row in Civic.

Police were patrolling the city at about 10:30 pm when they were waved down by several people who pointed to Watts and told them, “he’s got a knife”.

These three people said they were standing near East Row McDonald’s when a stranger, who turned out to be Watts, approached them, lifted his shirt, flashed the handle of a meat cleaver at them and asked if they wanted to fight.

He chased them across East Row, brandishing the meat cleaver, shouting that he was going to stab and bash them.

READ ALSO Meat cleaver-brandishing man chased strangers outside McDonald’s

“That is clearly a significant offence. It would have been very alarming for those present,” Magistrate Theakston said.

Less than a fortnight earlier, on 26 February, he had been at Scotts Crossing in Civic when he got into an argument with other people, during which he pulled out a knife.

When police found him on Doonkuna Street in Braddon, he had two kitchen knives with 20 cm blades.

Also, on 15 July, police found him in a hallway at Ainslie Village in Campbell in possession of a double-bladed knife.

Prosecutor Crystal Holt said during Watts’ time in the Alexander Maconochie Centre, he had to be disciplined once for setting fire to another detainee’s clothing.

His lawyer, Georgia Le Couteur of Legal Aid, said he carried knives for protection. She said he had a difficult upbringing, which is why he felt he needed to be protected.

But Magistrate Theakston said if he was worried about his safety then the safest thing for him was to not carry a knife at all.

“What is clear is he places himself at risk by having a knife,” he said.

READ ALSO Blood on the dancefloor as three punched at Mooseheads

Ms Le Couteur said he also struggled with an addiction to amphetamines after he was first given “ice” when younger to help him cope with the loss of his father.

She said he accepted the error of his ways and he was “willing and able to change”.

Watts pleaded guilty to charges that included possessing an offensive weapon with intent and possessing knives without reasonable excuses.

He was sentenced to four months’ jail, backdated to account for time served and released that afternoon. He was also given a 12-month good behaviour order.

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