Court doubles down

A MILDURA father who repeatedly assaulted his 11-year-old son, and told the boy he would be “taken away” if he revealed the abuse, has had his jail sentence doubled on appeal.

The County Court at Mildura this week heard the man punched, choked, slapped, kicked and on occasions subjected his son to name-calling, while the boy was in his full-time care.

On Christmas Day 2016, the father pushed his son into a wall, lifting his feet off the ground, and left him gasping for air at their home after they returned from a Christmas function that day, where the boy had been told off for yelling.

Another incident happened in April last year, when the man went into his son’s bedroom and became violent after the boy was unable to say why he had gotten into trouble at school.

Prosecutor David O’Doherty said the father stood over the boy and started hitting him, continuing to slap the boy in the face without saying a word.

When the boy complained of being choked, the man put his hands around the boy’s throat and said: “You want to know what choking is like? This is choking.”

Another incident took place after the boy fell from a dirt bike while the pair were riding on salt flats near Mildura in June last year.

The father belittled his son after the bike was damaged and knocked the boy to the ground, an incident during which the boy asked: “Why are you being so mean to me, Dad?”

The man was sentenced to two months’ jail and placed on an 18-month community corrections by a magistrate earlier this year after pleading guilty to four counts of unlawful assault.

The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed against that sentence, which it argued was “manifestly inadequate”, while the man also launched his own appeal in a bid to have it reduced.

Defence counsel Charles Morgan told the court the man had recently been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had made efforts to seek help following “failed attempts” to be a father.

Mr Morgan said the man ultimately wanted to reconnect with his son and had established his own painting and decorating business.

Mr O’Doherty, however, said the father’s behaviour warranted imprisonment, noting the incidents were not sudden losses of temper but came after the father had time to think about his actions.

The court was told the man initially denied his offending when interviewed by police.

The boy had not initially disclosed the assaults because he was afraid, his father having told him to say nothing.

Judge Gavan Meredith said the man’s behaviour was “cowardly”, “ongoing” and had breached his son’s trust.

Judge Meredith sentenced the man to four months’ jail and imposed a two-year corrections order requiring the man to complete 120 hours’ unpaid work, undergo supervision, receive mental health treatment and take part in offending behaviour programs.

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