John Torney assaulted while behind bars, jailed for assault of partner

John Torney leaves court after being acquitted of murdering Nikki Francis-Coslovich in 2016.

John Torney leaves court after being acquitted of murdering Nikki Francis-Coslovich in 2016.

THE man acquitted of murdering toddler Nikki Francis-Coslovich has been seriously assaulted in a remand centre, a court has heard.

John Torney, 33, was yesterday sentenced to three months’ jail and placed on a 12-month community corrections order over the brutal bashing of his de facto partner.

Mildura Magistrates’ Court heard Torney punched his then-partner of three months in the face, fracturing her nose, at a Robinvale caravan park in October.

After hitting the woman, Torney grabbed her by the hair and dragged her up a small hill to his caravan.

The victim was afraid to tell police what happened when they arrived at the scene and she and Torney insisted she had fallen from a motorbike.

Only later did the woman tell police Torney had assaulted her.

The attack happened after the woman had been driven back to Torney’s caravan from Mildura by Torney’s mother after an earlier family violence incident.

Torney later made multiple phone calls, left voicemails and sent several messages to a friend of the victim in an attempt to contact her.

At one point, he pretended to be a Mildura detective and left a message on the friend’s phone asking to speak to the victim, giving his own number as the return contact.

Torney was later arrested at his home and claimed his mother had his phone at the time.

By video link, he pleaded guilty to intentionally causing injury, making a threat to inflict serious injury, holding himself out to be a police officer and using a telecommunications service to harass.

Defence counsel Rebecca Boreham said Torney and his partner were heavily affected by alcohol when the family violence incident happened. She said the relationship had since ended.

The court heard Torney’s time in custody had been “a particularly difficult experience” and that he had been kept under protection after being seriously assaulted.

Ms Boreham said Torney suffered depression and anxiety and had “significant issues” with alcohol, which he used to “deal with personal demons”.

Torney’s lawyer asked he be given a chance on a community corrections order, given his modest criminal history.

Magistrate Gregory McNamara said Torney’s domestic assault was “particularly violent”.

“You can’t keep doing this sort of behaviour without expecting to go to jail for a long period of time,” he said.

Torney, who has spent 45 days behind bars, will be eligible for release in late January.

His community corrections order requires he be assessed for drug, alcohol and mental health treatment, take part in behaviour change programs and complete 180 hours’ unpaid community work. He was also fined $500.

Last year, a Supreme Court jury acquitted Torney of murdering two-year-old Nikki Francis-Coslovich.

He had admitted to putting the girl in the roof of her Oram Court home in 2015 but denied killing her.

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