‘Soft sentences a slap in the face to choking victims’

 

DOMESTIC violence advocates say they are exasperated at the number of light sentences being given to thugs who choke their partners.

They want mandatory sentencing or judges to sentence offenders closer to the maximum penalty of seven years to show society the scourge is being taken seriously.

A Gold Coast Bulletin investigation found 15 cases since October 2017 where offenders found guilty of choking their partners were released on suspended sentences or immediate parole after short periods on remand.

RELATED: Men serving less than eight months for horrific choking attacks on their partners

 

The investigation comes with just two days remaining in Domestic Violence Prevention Month. Police and community groups have spent the past four weeks holding workshops and forums to highlight the seriousness of violence in the home.

Chocking and suffocation was added as an additional criminal offence in April 2016 with a maximum penalty of seven years prison.

"We thought when we got the legislation we were making inroads but some of the outcomes are just shocking," Red Rose Foundation CEO Betty Taylor said.

Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence director Di MacLeod said soft sentences were a slap in the face to ­victims.

COURTS LETTING VICTIMS DOWN BY DOWNGRADING CHARGES

Di Macleod has 29 years in sexual assault prevention. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT
Di Macleod has 29 years in sexual assault prevention. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT

She said she felt it was sending the wrong message to the community, particularly after the victims had gone through the initial attack, given statements to police and then, at times, evidence in court.

"It's just not reflecting community standards at all," she said. "The community needs to understand that this behaviour is so serious. The sentences are not matching up (with the crimes)."

Police sources criticised the sentence handed to Carl John Shmylo, who was yesterday released after 342 days in remand for choking, suffocating and punching his partner in the face about 20 times.

Carl Shmylo leaves Southport Watch house. Photograph: Jason O'Brien
Carl Shmylo leaves Southport Watch house. Photograph: Jason O'Brien

"What does this say about the judiciary and the government about what our public expectations are?" one source said. "Send them to jail, send a clear message, that you can't treat the people you are supposed to love like that."

Another source questioned what an offender had to do to be locked up. "Seriously, does another person have to be killed before the courts start taking this seriously?"

THE CASES

* A mum was forced off the road by her former partner after he followed her through the streets of Helensvale in an ongoing attack which included choking and threats made from prison, the Southport District Court was told in April.

The woman had her young son in the car when the man forced her into a street light so hard the pole fell.

The chase came just four days after he had beaten the woman in her home, choking her before threatening her and forcing her into a car, the court was told. He forced her into the back seat with her son, then made her drive to the hospital. The man got out at a set of traffic lights.

In one call from prison, the court was told he said: "She would have to be running and hide really well because there would be pieces of you."

Judge Michael Rackemann sentenced him to three-and-a-half years prison with parole eligibility on the day of sentencing. The man had spent more than one year and one month in custody.

* Ricky John Russell Morgan faced Southport District Court in April on one count of choking and common assault and two counts of wilful damage - all listed as domestic violence offences.

On June 24 last year, Morgan grabbed his partner by the throat and she struggled to breathe for five seconds. The court was told Morgan repeatedly struck himself in the face and then spat blood at his partner.

Judge David Kent, who described the choking offence as "extremely serious", sentenced Morgan to an overarching jail term of two-and-a-half years, but he was released on immediate parole considering time already served.

* A man spat on, abused and choked his wife so hard she momentarily lost her vision, the Southport District Court was told in January.

The 28-year-old father, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to a slew of horrific domestic violence offences.

In February last year, the man, who had been drinking, bashed through the woman's bathroom door and dragged her out by the hair as she held their six-month-old child. She was hiding in the room after calling police.

The man put the child in a cot, threw his wife on to a coffee table and against a door, and choked her with both hands until her vision went black.

Judge Katherine McGinness jailed the man for three years, with a parole release date on the day of sentencing. The 319 days he spent in custody counted as time already served.

* Richard Peter Ware pleaded guilty in the Southport District Court in December 2018 to choking his partner until she almost blacked out. Judge David Kent sentenced him to 18 months in prison which was immediately suspended. The maximum penalty is seven years.

* Matthew Brett Reynolds pleaded guilty in Southport District Court in November 2018 to choking his partner until she passed out. Judge Richard Jones sentenced him to two years in prison wholly suspended for an operational period of two years.

* A man, 39, who grabbed his partner by the throat and pushed her into the wall was sentenced in the Southport District Court in October 2018 to a 12-month suspended jail sentence. He was originally charged with choking but after negotiations the charge was downgraded to assault occasioning bodily harm.

* Marcin Rybicki, was given an 18-month jail term in September 2018, to be suspended after he served two months, for twice choking a friend. Rybicki was originally charged with choking but pleaded down to assault occasioning bodily harm.

* A man strangled his partner of 22 years until she passed out and urinated on herself. The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had split from his partner three weeks beforehand and visited her in a drunken rage accusing her of lying. In September 2018, the man, 41, pleaded guilty to choking, assault and wilful damage. He walked from court after spending 193 days in prison. Judge Paul Smith sentenced him to two years' prison which he suspended on the day of sentencing for an operational period of three years.

* A 22-year-old man pleaded guilty to common assault in September 2018 after choking his partner during a physical confrontation. The fight on July 23, 2017, began after the woman refused him sex and kicked the man out of bed and punched him.

She tried to kick him in the genitalia and the man grabbed her foot before wrapping his hand around her throat and squeezing. "Watch me get arrested, I will bury you," the man said when the woman threatened to call police. "I will kill you (expletive)."

Judge Smith sentenced him to six months in prison which he immediately suspended for an operational period of 12 months. Convictions were recorded.

* A man who lied to try to save his own skin, cutting himself with a knife in a bid to convince police he acted in self-defence, had in fact lifted a woman off the ground as he choked her with two hands. He was jailed for two years but allowed parole after eight months, even though the judge did not believe he was remorseful.

* A man who in separate attacks tried to smother his partner with a plastic bag and later squeezed her throat so hard she could not breathe, was sentenced to two years but given immediate parole because he had been in custody already for eight months.

* A young father was jailed in December 2017 for 18 months for strangling and stomping on the head of his partner, but was due for release in February.

* A 51-year-old man who smashed his partner's head against a car and choked her claimed he was drunk and had no memory of it. He was jailed in January 2018 for two years but due for release in April.

* A chef who choked his fiancee and attacked her mother was jailed in February 2018 for 18 months but granted immediate parole because of time spent in custody.

* In March 2018, a man who choked his partner and turned on a nine-year-old who pleaded with him to stop was jailed for more than two years but given immediate parole because of 10 months spent in custody. The court ordered drug and alcohol testing and put him on probation.


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