STATE OF TASMANIA v CHRISTOPHER VERNON CLARK ESTCOURT J
COMMENTS ON PASSING SENTENCE 6 AUGUST 2020
On 3 December 2018 the defendant was approaching his car which was parked in Windsor Street in Glenorchy. Inside were his female partner, Alexandra Mucci and her two infant children, who were apparently asleep in the rear of the vehicle.
The defendant was on bail for breach of bail offences at the time and whilst a warrant had been issued for his arrest, he may not have known that. He may also not have known that the vehicle which pulled up in the middle of the road, blocking it was an unmarked police vehicle, as he and Ms Mucci had “been on the run” for the previous 10 days or so, from Ms Mucci’s ex-partner. But he must have quickly become aware of the true situation when two male police officers alighted the unmarked vehicle, wearing tactical vests with the word “Police” written in fluoro on both the front and back.
The defendant, who had an injured leg or legs at the time, hobbled quickly to the driver’s seat of his car, discarded his single crutch and shut and locked the driver’s door as police approached his window. By this stage Ms Mucci was half in and half out of the car with the passenger side door open. Regardless of that the defendant reversed at speed, catching her with the door and trapping her under the car.
That comprises count 1 on the indictment – a charge of assault of which the jury found the defendant guilty.
The defendant stopped the car and drove forward. One of the police officers, Constable Michael Moore, smashed the windscreen of the car with his police baton and then moved around and leaned across the passenger seat in an attempt to engage the handbrake. The defendant again reversed at speed, ejecting Constable Moore and dragging him by his wrist, which was trapped.
That comprises count 2 on the indictment – a charge of causing grievous bodily harm of which the jury found the defendant guilty. I find that it was on the basis that he was reckless, not that he intended grievous bodily harm to Mr Moore.
After Constable Moore rolled free, the defendant drove forward again at speed, escaping the scene with the children still in the car. He was located and arrested a few days later.
The defendant has a poor record, including convictions for assault, robbery and drug offences. He also has over 100 convictions for breaches of family violence orders involving both threats and contact offending.
The defendant is a 36 year old indigenous male who suffered a traumatic childhood involving brutal violence and sadistic sexual abuse. He commenced using illicit substances as a child and subsequently there developed a direct correlation between his drug use and his criminal activity.
He reports having been diagnosed with hearing loss, epilepsy and anxiety. He suffers from panic attacks, mood irregularity and nightmares as a result of his past.
I take into account the matters put on his behalf by his counsel, Mr Rainbird, including, that in recent times he has had a good work record and he has a strong interest in the care of his children. To his credit, he completed a drug and alcohol course in prison and sought assessment from the Bridge Program. He is determined not to associate with his former pro-criminal associates and he has a job to go to on his release from prison.
Ms Mucci suffered abrasions and contusions to her left leg which was bandaged by police officers at the scene.
I have read a victim impact statement made by Mr Moore, as he now is, having left the police force as a result of this incident and moved to Western Australia. His employment prospects have suffered considerably as a result of his injuries. He suffered a broken left wrist requiring corrective surgery involving the permanent insertion of a plate. He also suffered planar fractures to both his left tibia and fibula, which did not require treatment. In addition he suffered grazing and bruising to his lower limbs. He now finds himself quick to anger and suffers from a loss of personal confidence and identity.
One cannot but feel considerable empathy for the defendant’s quite appalling childhood, and as a consequence his drug abuse, however I do note that in a pre-sentence report prepared for the Chief Magistrate in September 2018, on a charge of robbery at the lower end of the scale, the defendant is reported as saying, “I’m still to blame at the end of the day. I’m not blaming the drugs at all. It’s my decision. I’ve never done anything with the intention to hurt anyone or with any malice behind it. I’m not that type of person.”
The assault on Ms Mucci is a serious one, despite her minor injuries, because of the circumstances in which it was committed, with the defendant putting his own interests above the safety and well-being of his partner and her two children. Ms Mucci could have been seriously injured or killed. So too could Constable Moore, who was a police officer acting in the course of his duty. Police officers doing their job must be protected by this Court imposing sentences that deter others from the temptation to defy and harm them.
The defendant is convicted of one count of assault and one count of causing grievous bodily harm. I impose a single sentence of three years’ imprisonment backdated to 23 April 2020. The defendant gave evidence on his trial and in my assessment he is an intelligent and articulate person. I would not regard him as incapable of turning his life around. Accordingly I suspend the last 9 months of his sentence on condition that he commit no offence punishable by imprisonment for a period of 2 years from his release from prison. The defendant is not to be eligible for parole until he has served half of the operative period of his sentence, which is 13 ½ months.