19 January 2023

Prisoner who assaulted three guards at Canberra's jail avoids 'crushing sentence'

| Albert McKnight
Alexander Maconochie Centre

Ronald Tracey, 50, has been sentenced for assaulting guards at the Alexander Maconochie Centre. Photo: File.

A prisoner serving years at Canberra’s jail when he launched a series of attacks on the facility’s guards has avoided a “crushing sentence” by only having to spend another six months behind bars.

Fifty-year-old Ronald Tracey was sentenced in the ACT Galambany Court in late December 2022, which was outlined in a published decision by Special Magistrate Anthony Hopkins.

“Correctional officers at the AMC [Alexander Maconochie Centre] are there to do a job. It is a challenging job. They do not deserve to be subjected to violence,” the special magistrate said.

In September 2020, Tracey climbed over a fence and entered an area he didn’t have permission to be in to look for a tennis ball.

Two corrections officers approached him and told him to stop, but he turned and punched one officer in the eye, for which he had to be taken to hospital for treatment, and later pushed the other.

Tracey demanded food while in his cell in April 2021, but this was denied. He then started a fire in the cell’s toilet, causing significant damage, before he damaged two more cells later that day. This cost more than $10,000 to repair.

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In September 2021, he demanded to be moved from a cell because it had a broken window, saying if he was not then he would “go off and destroy the place”.

A corrections officer told him he would let his superior know, but Tracey then attacked him, punching him repeatedly while other detainees gathered at the cell’s entrance.

The officer was taken to hospital with bruising to his left temple and a cut to his nose and inner lip after the “terrifying experience”, Special Magistrate Hopkins said.

He said all the offences involved Tracey “reacting impulsively and violently” when he perceived himself to be under threat or unfairly treated.

For instance, Tracey said he punched the officer in 2020 because he was scared the officer was going to hit him.

“This fear arose from past experience in carceral institutions,” the special magistrate said.

Tracey, a Murri man from Queensland, pleaded guilty to three counts of assault-related charges, as well as three counts of damaging property.

He has a history of childhood trauma and has only spent four years out of custody over about three decades.

“As I get out of jail I can’t cope in the community and I just steal stuff to survive,” he said.

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He had been in custody because in 2020, the ACT Supreme Court sentenced him to nearly eight years’ jail on burglary, theft and assault charges with a non-parole period of about four years that was to end in May 2023.

Special Magistrate Hopkins said if he imposed a consecutive sentence for the fresh assaults his earliest release date would be in 2027, which would make a “crushing sentence”.

He found special circumstances existed, in part due to Tracey’s past trauma, and gave him a sentence that means he will have to spend an extra six months in jail before becoming eligible for parole. Tracey can now be released in November 2023.

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