A “callous, calculated, vicious joint assault” in which the victim suffered “serious harm” earned the perpetrators, Jason Corp and Benjamin Gaff, sentences of three years and nine months imprisonment from Justice Judith Kelly last Friday.
The “sustained, unprovoked and unexplained” nature of the attack, aggravated by the two perpetrators being in company and by the use of a weapon (a shovel), put the offending in the “middle to serious end of the range for offences of this nature”, said Justice Kelly.
In her judgment, the perpetrators bear criminal responsibility for the violence they personally visited on the victim, and for the violence visited on him by one another.
The attack took place in Alice Springs on May 29, 2010, just three days after Mr Corp had been released from prison, having served part of a sentence which was suspended from May 26. He will now have to serve the remainder of the suspended sentence (one month and nine days) on top of the new sentence.
Mr Corp’s criminal history in the NT counted against him. From March to May 2010 he had been convicted of four driving offences, three aggravated assaults, one of them on a woman, another on a child, and five drug offences. He also has outstanding warrants in Western Australia and convictions there, one for assault causing bodily harm, one for breach of a Domestic Violence Order.
Justice Kelly set his non-parole period at two years.
She said she did not accept the interpretation of the Crown facts put forward by Mr Corp’s counsel, that the sudden and unprovoked assault on the victim by Mr Gaff had taken him by surprise, and that Mr Corp had tried to help the victim (other than when he pulled him down from a wall behind which he kept guard dogs).
She said he had offered no explanation of his offending and she had trouble accepting that he was “truly sorry” from what he did, as distinct from regretting the situation he found himself in.
He did benefit from a 25% reduction in sentence in acknowledgment of his guilty plea and his assistance to police in relation to the non-fatal shooting at Junction Waterhole that occurred on the same day. Justice Kelly would otherwise have imposed a five year term of imprisonment.
Mr Gaff also benefitted from a 25% reduction on the same grounds and additionally that he showed evidence of the “beginnings of remorse”.
Mr Gaff’s account of the circumstances of the offending was “self-serving” and “inconsitent”, said Justice Kelly. She accepted that he had been drinking and was shaken by the shooting that occurred earlier in the evening but she did not accept this as an explanation of the assault. His role in the violence was also greater; he landed the first punch (fracturing the victim’s nose) and also struck the victim with the shovel and kicked him a number of times to the head.
However, Justice Kelly accepted dealing with Mr Gaff as a first time offender (his conviction for a firearms offence post-dated the assault and came about as a result of a police search for the weapon involved in the shooting, with respect to which he gave police “valuable assistance”).
She also accepted that the offending seemed “out of character”, that he is “very young”, that he has “good support” from family and friends, and “reasonably good” prospects of rehabilitation. Accordingly, she ordered Mr Gaff’s sentence to be suspended after 18 months, of which he has already served some nine months. From his release he will be on a good behaviour bond for three years, be under the supervision of the Director of Community Corrections, and will not be able to purchase, possess or consume alcohol for the duration.
Earlier reports here and here.