Neo-Nazis’ courtroom win over attack

Jacob Hersant and Thomas Sewell have walked free from court after prosecutors lost an appeal against their sentences. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nicki Connolly

Two Melbourne neo-Nazis have won a challenge against their sentences after Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions argued that they were “manifestly inadequate”.

Thomas Sewell, 31, and Jacob Hersant, 25, walked free from the County Court late last year after each pleaded guilty to violent disorder.

Sewell was sentenced to 37 days time served, with the court acknowledging he had spent more than six months in solitary confinement on remand, while Hersant was sentenced to 200 hours of community service.

At a hearing in the Court of Appeal last month, chief Crown prosecutor Brendan Kissane KC sought to overturn the sentences, arguing the pair should have received harsher penalties and be returned to prison.

Sentences against Thomas Sewell (left) and Jacob Hersant (right) were upheld. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nicki Connolly

“What we submit is that in both cases Her Honour should have imposed a lengthier period of imprisonment and a CCO (community corrections order),” he said.

“This must have been terrifying offending for the victims who were a completely innocent group.”

The two men returned to the Court of Appeal on Tuesday with a group of supporters as a panel of three judges dismissed the appeals.

Justice Karen Emerton told the court that Judge Kellie Blair was entitled to treat Sewell’s time on remand as punishment enough.

She said the panel had found Hersant’s sentence manifestly inadequate but dismissed the appeal with the court’s “residual discretion”.

“It would be counter-productive to return him to custody in circumstances where he was a young offender who had completed all 200 hours of work imposed under the community corrections order,” Justice Emerton said.

The two men blamed the attack on the victims. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Liam Beatty
The two men blamed the attack on the victims. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Liam Beatty

Last year, Judge Blair was told the pair were gathering with about 25 males involved with the European Australian Movement and National Socialist Network at the Cathedral Ranges State Park on May 8, 2021.

A hiker on a day trip with friends filmed the group after noticing many were wearing Celtic cross T-shirts – a symbol associated with neo-Nazi groups.

One member saw the man filming from inside his car and yelled “ANTIFA” as many in the group began kicking and punching their vehicle.

Outside court, Sewell said the result was a “victory for White Australia”.

He blamed the incident on anti-fascists activists, the media and counter-terrorism police.

“We remained peaceful and then these people ran us down and there then was a violent disorder, which I think any Australian with red blood still left in their veins and any honour would find very reasonable,” he said.