Never mind the public: Case facts drive sentencing, magistrate says

A MAGISTRATE says community expectations cannot be taken into account when sentencing offenders because it is “fostered by polit­ical grandstanding and the most opportunistic type of media coverage”.

Magistrate Jonathan Klestadt said a “climate of fear” had been created by Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper and “various politicians who sought to use it for their own benefit”.

He said evidence showed members of the public would impose similar sentences to magistrates and judges when they were aware of all the facts in a case.

Mr Klestadt made the comments during a plea hearing this week for Mildura man Hassan ­Allami, 21, who was involved in a brawl at the Red Cliffs ­Hotel and an attack on a taxi driver outside Melbourne’s Crown Casino last year.

Mr Klestadt told Allami he wanted to sentence him to a year behind bars but the law prevented him doing so because Allami’s co-accused and older brother, Hussein, had been placed on a 12-month community corrections order by ­another magistrate. 

Hussein pleaded guilty in June to his own involvement in the two violent incidents.

The court heard Allami had been drinking with Hussein and two other men on December 15 last year before the group went to the Red Cliffs pub late that night.

They became aggressive towards security staff after being asked to leave because the pub was closing.

A female bar attendant sustained a black eye in the violence that ensued, while a bystander was also injured after Hussein swung a chair around and threw it at him, hitting the man in the leg.

The Allami brothers and the two other men left the pub before ­police arrived and Allami later said he did not remember much of the night, other than waking up at a girl’s house.

The violence followed an incid­ent in June last year outside Melbourne’s Crown Casino when ­Allami became aggressive towards a cab driver.

The taxi driver told Allami he was not allowed to take aggressive passengers before Allami replied: “If you don’t take me right now, I’ll smash your taxi and you as well”.

Allami hit the driver in the face with his fist after both men got out of the car.

Allami’s brother Hussein got out of a separate cab that was following and the pair circled the cab driver with their fists raised.

On Wednesday, Allami pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawful assault, affray, failing to leave a lic­ensed premises on request and recklessly causing injury.

Defence counsel Peter Delorenzo asked Mr Klestadt to impose a similar sentence to the corrections order Hussein Allami was given by Magistrate Pauline Spencer.

The court heard another man charged with affray over the Red Cliffs incident was not convicted because he was not as heavily ­involved in the violence.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Alex West said the pub brawl left employees terrified.

Mr Klestadt said he was bound by law to consider the sentence handed to Hussein Allami.

“Had that not been the case or had I not been made aware of the sentence your brother received and what seems to be the ludicrous sentence for your other co-accused, I would have imposed a sentence of 12 months’ jail,” Mr Klestadt told Allami.

Allami was handed a correct­ions order requiring him to complete 150 hours’ unpaid work, be supervised and undergo treatment for drug and alcohol use.

He was fined $2000 for the taxi incident and a further $250 for breaching bail.

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