A wealthy businessman has been sentenced to 8 1/2 years jail for his calculated and persistent attempt to hire a hit man to murder his estranged daughter-in-law.
Brian Vincent Attwell, who will be 80 before he can be considered for release on parole, was motivated by his strong objections to expensive Family Court proceedings and animosity towards his son's ex-wife when he tried to hire a contract killer to murder Michelle Patreena Attwell in September 2012.
In the Supreme Court in Perth this morning, Justice Ralph Simmonds said the prominent Albany businessman had shown no remorse, no empathy and no acceptance of responsibility for his offence.
He said despite Attwell's previous good character, including his generous contributions to the community and a 2008 nomination for an Australian of the Year award, the offence was so serious that imprisonment was the only appropriate sentencing option.
Attwell, who appeared in court on a video link from Albany, told Justice Simmonds he was "not very happy with the decision" and he would lodge an appeal.
Attwell was convicted of attempting to procure the murder of his former daughter-in-law, who watched today's sentencing from a video link in a separate building in Albany, after a jury trial in November.
He initially offered a local man, whose identity is suppressed, $30,000 to get rid of Ms Attwell.
She had been embroiled in a protracted property dispute with his son after the end of their marriage and the case threatened to involve the Attwells' family business.
But the local man went to police with his concerns, prompting a covert operation involving an undercover officer known only as "Josh".
In two meetings on September 25 and 26, 2012, Attwell handed over $10,000 cash to "Josh" as a down payment for the murder.
He was secretly recorded instructing Josh that he did not want Ms Attwell buried on his land, but could provide a bulldozer for the task. He also did not want a trail of blood and suggested she should be strangled.
Justice Simmonds, who ruled that the maximum sentence faced by Attwell was life behind bars as opposed to a 14-year term, accepted Ms Attwell was never in any real danger because of the involvement of an undercover officer.
But he said the offence involved elements of pre-meditation and planning, as well as calculation and persistence.
Justice Simmonds said Attwell had been driven by his emotional response to the Family Court proceedings, not by cold, rational thought.
"It was by a man who took just pride in his ability to take effective action to advance interests of great importance to him," he said.
Justice Simmonds said Ms Attwell suffered "continuing trauma" as a consequence of the offence, which had made her feel vulnerable and affected her ability to live a normal life.
Taking into account six months spent in custody on remand, Attwell will become eligible for parole in six years.