WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of violence.
A woman’s 44-year-old partner has been jailed for bludgeoning her in the head with a torch during a brutal outburst of violence that splattered blood across her bed and curtains.
But before he was sentenced, he presented an extraordinary letter to the ACT Magistrates Court in which he described his guilt, hard life and wishes to improve.
In his letter, read to the court on Tuesday (7 September), he said he was an Indigenous Australian and Bosnian man and, when growing up, was “stuck between two worlds”.
When he was a child his father left the country to fight in the Bosnian War, dying overseas.
He claimed he was abused by his mother’s new partner, a man who “drank VB while playing darts”, then was kicked out of home and had to survive on the streets of Cabramatta when he was only 11 years old.
The man said he was homeless when he went to his partner’s home intending to collect his belongings but ended up bashing her.
He described a period in the 2000s as “the best period of my life” as he had housing. Now all he wanted was a place to live.
The man said he had read all the books in jail, had been learning how to bake and completed an anger management course.
“I am tired,” he said.
“I am sick of doing the wrong thing. I want to change.”
He said he knew he had to be punished for hurting the woman.
His Aboriginal Legal Service lawyer Jonathan Cooper spoke up to say what his client said was true, that he was a homeless person who struggled with drugs.
The letter even impressed Magistrate Beth Campbell.
“If you mean it, it was quite moving,” she told the man.
And while she encouraged him to keep reading every book in the prison’s library and continue baking, she said she still had to send a message to the community that “this is not a way you can treat a woman”.
“Men have no right to subject their female partners to threats or violence,” she said.
Earlier, prosecutor Marcus Dyason told the court the man had gone to the woman’s home in Florey on 2 November 2020 and they started to argue before he picked up a torch and smashed it into her head.
He used it to hit her again, then punched her in the head and kicked her in the torso.
“If I don’t find all my things, then watch out because I’ll put a bullet in you,” he told her.
When she tried to flee he grabbed her, and they fell outside the house before she finally escaped. Police arrived to find her screaming and covered in blood.
The woman had two lacerations to her head, including one that required five stitches, but she still appeared to have strong feelings for him despite the beating she endured.
The woman stood up in the courtroom to say she wanted to apologise to her “dearest friend” for antagonising him that day.
“It wasn’t the right way to go about it,” she said.
“I don’t really look at myself in the mirror too much so I don’t see the damage.”
Despite Magistrate Campbell telling her “he was no friend on that day though”, she insisted that he was.
“I believe I’ll be friends with him until the day I die,” she said.
The man said he was affected by methylamphetamine when he assaulted the woman and when he burgled Compass Healthcare in Florey on 21 June 2020.
Magistrate Campbell said that did not justify his behaviour.
He pleaded guilty to charges of assault, contravening a family violence order and burglary.
The man was sentenced to three years and two months’ jail. As it was backdated to cover the time he has already spent behind bars, the sentence will end in January 2024, but his non-parole period of two years means he is eligible to be released from custody in November 2022.
“That letter did not go unacknowledged or unnoticed. It was certainly something I took into account,” Magistrate Campbell told him.
If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support is also available through The Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 02 6247 2525, The Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT 02 6280 0900, and Lifeline: 13 11 14. In an emergency call 000.