18 March 2024

Murderer took part in aggravated robbery 153 days after release on suspended sentence

| Claire Fenwicke
ACT Courts

The man was denied bail for a second time in ACT Magistrates Court on 9 May. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A man who took part in the murder of a university graduate in 2011 could be facing a new jail sentence after committing a fresh crime.

The man, who Region cannot name as he was 17 at the time of the Braddon murder, had been sentenced to 17 years in prison. This was suspended after he served 10 years and six months to be carried out in the community.

But just 153 days after his release, he took part in the aggravated robbery of a woman over an alleged drug debt.

He was found guilty of aggravated robbery by joint commission in a judge-alone Supreme Court trial in November 2023, and has been remanded in custody since his arrest.

The man had gone to the house of the female victim, who had considered him a friend, on the night of 5 July 2022.

He was accompanied by another woman, who in turn let another three people into the victim’s home. Two of them assaulted the victim before robbing her.

Throughout the crimes, the offender sat on the bed facing the victim with the gun in his lap, and at one point commented “that’s brutal” in regards to the bashing she received.

The group then left.

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Given this offending took place while the man was serving his suspended sentence in the community, Justice Verity McWilliam is now considering what punishment he should receive.

The man’s defence counsel, principal solicitor Tim Sharman of Tim Sharman Solicitors, told the justice her sentencing options would be limited if she wanted to “embrace rehabilitation”, given the man had originally been sentenced as a juvenile.

Mr Sharman asked Her Honour to resentence his client rather than order him to serve the remainder of his sentence back behind bars.

He argued his client had been released into the community with “inadequate supports”.

“Drugs, of course, seem to be the primary precursor in both offences [the murder and the aggravated robbery],” Mr Sharman said.

As the original sentence had been for murder, a drug and alcohol treatment order or intensive corrections isn’t an available option for the court.

The law doesn’t allow for the man to be re-sentenced as an adult, which could open up possibilities for a non-parole period with rehabilitative conditions.

Mr Sharman said this was a “failure in the system”.

“[My client] shows real promise in terms of rehabilitation at this point in his life,” he said.

Justice McWilliam expressed her frustration with the law, stating “what I really want to do is get him off drugs”.

The man’s sister earlier gave evidence expressing her concerns that adequate supports hadn’t been in place for her brother when he was first released.

She explained the man had to go back to living with their father, but this time he could live with his girlfriend.

“It’s a safe environment … ready to go anytime,” she said.

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Justice McWilliam toyed with the legal possibilities available to her and expressed her desire to provide a sentence which would have the rehabilitative aspects the man needed.

“This is a tricky one,” she said to prosecutor Marcus Dyason.

He agreed, but pointed out the court needed to remember the man had originally been sentenced for murder which had occurred during an aggravated robbery.

“Within [about] 160 days of release, the offender then engaged in conduct which, in essence, is eerily similar to the previous offending,” Mr Dynon said.

He submitted the offender had taken an even “more serious” weapon to this aggravated robbery and while it wasn’t used his “conduct and [his] presence there should be of concern to this court”.

“Clearly this is an extremely serious offence,” Mr Dyason said.

“The court needs to send a clear message [that if you breach a suspended sentence and the] trust placed in you by the judicial system … you will be dealt with swiftly and seriously for that breach of trust.”

He also argued the offender had shown “poor compliance” with the conditions of the suspended sentence, as he had quickly gone back to smoking meth.

Mr Dyason submitted the remainder of the man’s suspended sentence should now be served in prison otherwise the system could be brought “into disrepute”.

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Justice McWilliam agreed the offender’s behaviour was not a “trivial breach” but was worried about the man becoming institutionalised.

She pointed out the ACT’s justice system had an emphasis on rehabilitation but that the court also couldn’t “forget what the original sentence was for”.

Justice McWilliam reserved her decision to be handed down on 22 March.

The man had six-and-a-half years remaining on his suspended sentence at the time of the offending. He has spent almost 600 days in custody since his arrest for this crime.

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