STATE OF TASMANIA v JAKE LAURENCE FORD                         7 OCTOBER 2020


COMMENTS ON PASSING SENTENCE                                                            BLOW CJ

 Jake Laurence Ford has pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated armed robbery. His younger brother, Angus James Ford, has pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated robbery. Both charges relate to an incident on 2 October 2019. At that time both brothers were users of Ice or methylamphetamine. They had run out of both money and Ice. They decided to rob a man who had been selling Ice to them, and proceeded to do so. I will refer to him as the complainant.

By arrangement, the two brothers went to his house at about 10pm. He let them in. They sat down and consumed some drugs. He weighed out $150 worth of Ice for them. Angus Ford came up behind him and put him in a choke hold, squeezing his neck.

The complainant had a double barrelled shotgun in the room. Jake Ford picked it up, not because he wanted to use it, but because he did not want the complainant to use it.  At first he pointed it at the floor, but the complainant approached him, and he then pointed it at the complainant, and said, “Give me everything you have.” The complainant protested that they were mates, to no avail. He grabbed the barrel of the shotgun, which was still being pointed at him. There was a struggle. The shotgun discharged, causing damage to the floor and a cupboard. The complainant was still in the choke hold, and still had hold of the barrels of the shotgun, when Jake Ford produced a knife from his pocket and stabbed the complainant to the arm. He let go of the firearm. Angus Ford continued applying pressure to the complainant’s neck until he lost consciousness. Jake Ford took the firearm, about 4.7 grams of Ice, and the complainant’s wallet, which had $1,900 in cash in it. The two brothers then departed.

The Crown does not assert that Angus Ford is criminally responsible for the fact that his brother was armed during the robbery. He has therefore been charged with aggravated robbery, while his brother has been charged with aggravated armed robbery. However this was a planned robbery, and both brothers planned that force would be used if necessary to overcome any resistance by the complainant to them stealing Ice and anything else of value that they could take. Using weapons was not part of the plan. Jake Ford routinely carried a knife for his own protection. He used it only after the violence had escalated, and there was a struggle for control of the shotgun at a time when only one of its two barrels had discharged.

This was certainly not a well planned robbery. The complainant knew the two brothers. It was inevitable that he would either report them to the police, or retaliate in some way, or both. It is lucky that nobody was shot.

After regaining consciousness, the complainant reported the robbery to the police. He was taken to the Royal Hobart Hospital where his wound was treated. He did not require ongoing medical attention. Police searched the surrounding area and located a shotgun that appeared to be the one taken from the complainant.

This incident has had a substantial psychological and financial impact on the complainant. He had been working full-time as a concretor, but left his job because of his state of mind. He had been the primary carer of one of his children, but has said that he lost custody of her as a result of this incident. He has moved house and become reclusive. He has problems with sleeplessness, social withdrawal and depression.

Jake Ford was 24 years old on the day in question and is now 25. He has some relevant prior convictions. In 2012 he was sentenced to 14 months’ youth justice detention on a charge of assault. In 2013, on a charge of aggravated robbery and other charges, a magistrate imposed a wholly suspended sentence of six months’ youth justice detention and ordered him to perform 50 hours’ community service. In 2014, in relation to an earlier robbery, a judge imposed a wholly suspended sentence of six months’ imprisonment and ordered him to perform 35 hours’ community service. After that he went to Queensland, where he was dealt with by magistrates for various offences on six occasions. In 2016 he was sentenced there to six months’ imprisonment for contravening a domestic violence order.

He had been using cannabis from the age of 13, but before moving to Queensland he reduced his cannabis use and gave up drinking alcohol. Whilst in Queensland he was employed as a landscape gardener for 2½ years. Towards the end of that period he was introduced to Ice. He became unemployed as a result of his employer selling his business. He returned to Tasmania, and ceased his drug use for a time, but renewed old friendships, resumed using Ice, and became addicted to it. He has a partner and two young children. In the days leading up to this incident, his partner left him, giving him an ultimatum that he had to arrange rehabilitation. It appears that he then increased his drug use and lost all perspective.

He was arrested two days after the robbery and has been in custody ever since. He is now drug free. In the year that he has been in custody his weight has increased from 60Kg to 95Kg. He has been given trusted positions within the prison, first as a laundry hand for eight months, and more recently as a wardsman. His partner remains supportive, provided he remains drug free. On his release he would like to resume family life, find work, and study horticulture at TAFE. It counts in his favour that he co-operated with the police, made admissions, and pleaded guilty, obviating any need for the case to be prepared for trial.

Angus Ford was 22 years old at the time of the robbery and is now 23. He has a number of prior convictions, but had not been to prison before the robbery. As a youth he was dealt with by magistrates on a number of occasions. At various times he was placed on probation and ordered to perform community service, as well as once being given a wholly suspended sentence of detention. Most of his offences as a youth involved acts of dishonesty, but they included three assaults. On 25 February 2019, on charges of motor vehicle stealing and burglary, a magistrate sentenced him to two months’ imprisonment, which was wholly suspended on condition that he not commit another offence punishable by imprisonment in the following 18 months. This robbery was committed between seven and eight months later. The Crown has applied for this sentence to be activated. The sentence relates to an incident in October 2017 when Mr Ford was walking home on a Saturday night, saw a motorcycle in somebody’s garage, entered it as a trespasser, wheeled the motorcycle onto the road, and attempted to kick start it without success, and departed without it. He got caught because he left some gloves behind and his DNA was found on them. In my view it would not be unjust to activate the suspended sentence since he stayed out of trouble for less than eight months after it was imposed, and the new offending also involved dishonesty.

Angus Ford has a partner and a young child. He is unemployed. He became addicted to Ice about a year before the robbery. He was arrested on 4 October 2019 and remained in custody until bailed on 19 February. He too took the opportunity to become drug free after his arrest. His weight has increased from 51Kg when arrested to 73Kg last month. It counts in his favour that he too co-operated with the police, made full admissions, and pleaded guilty at an early stage.

The only appropriate sentence for each of these two men is a sentence of imprisonment. I will backdate each sentence to take into account the periods that each of them has spent in custody. In Angus Ford’s case, I will also make some allowance for the fact that his sentence follows on from the activated two-month suspended sentence. Jake Ford’s sentence will have to be substantially longer than his brother’s because he armed himself with the shotgun, which turned out to be loaded, because he stabbed the complainant with his knife, because he got his brother involved in this robbery, and because he has a worse record than his brother.

Jake Laurence Ford, I convict you and sentence you to two years six months’ imprisonment with effect from 4 October 2019. You will not be eligible for parole until you have served 15 months of this sentence.

Angus James Ford, I activate the sentence of two months’ imprisonment imposed on complaint 1886/2018, with effect from 4 October 2019. On the charge of aggravated robbery, I convict you and sentence you to 14 months’ imprisonment with effect from 12 July 2020. You will not be eligible for parole until you have served seven months of this sentence.

I order you both, jointly and severally, to pay [the complainant] $1,900 as compensation for the loss suffered by him.