Bash sentence to be reviewed
Bash sentence to be reviewed

State prosecutors will review a three-year jail term handed to a 21-year-old man who committed a "cowardly" and "brutal" attack on a great-grandfather and then bragged about his violent, drug-fuelled crime on Facebook.

The penalty for Robert Geoff Collard's unprovoked baseball bat attack on the 74-year-old stranger sparked criticism that the courts are failing to protect the vulnerable and impose sentences that reflect community expectations.

After the District Court sentencing yesterday, victim Wally said Collard should have been jailed for longer.

Wally said he could have been killed and was only saved after crawling to a nearby house for help.

"If I didn't put my arm up he would have killed me or I'd be an invalid in a chair now or smashed up for life," Wally said outside the court.

"Another five minutes and I would have been dead."

Director of Public Prosecutions Joe McGrath said the case would be reviewed to determine if the sentence should be appealed.

District Court Judge Anthony Derrick imposed the three-year term after Collard pleaded guilty in May to aggravated grievous bodily harm.

The maximum penalty for the charge - aggravated because the victim was older than 60 - is 14 years jail.

Judge Derrick took into account Collard's age and early guilty plea.

He sentenced Collard to an extra seven months because the offence breached a two-year suspended prison term for three separate assaults.

A second suspended prison term will be dealt with in the Supreme Court next month.

With time already served, Collard could walk free on parole as early as December next year.

Last October, Wally was walking at night in the southern suburb of Camillo trying to find the owner of a lost dog when Collard, with a group of five juveniles, pulled a baseball bat from under his jumper and repeatedly hit him on the head, back, ribs and legs.

Within hours of the attack, Collard boasted about the bashing on Facebook.

Wally's wife Janet said the bashing made her once-active and positive husband a different person. Although she believed the sentence was insufficient, she hoped jail would turn Collard into a better man.

Wally, who used to volunteer as a Santa Claus in shopping centres, said he was hit up to five times with the bat, resulting in a badly broken arm, two fractured ribs and a fractured vertebra.

But he was determined to reclaim his life and move on from the ordeal, including a return to his Santa Claus role.

Judge Derrick said Collard, who had an "unremarkable childhood" but whose significant criminal history was linked to entrenched drug and alcohol problems, showed no remorse or victim empathy for his actions, committed when he was drunk and high on amphetamines.

"You, in a cowardly way, inflicted a brutal beating on a defenceless, elderly man for no reason whatsoever," he told Collard.

He rejected Collard's claim he had been provoked by racially abusive comments.

Collard's lawyer Stephen Gabriel said his client was immature, naive and self-indulgent.

Council on the Ageing president and former Labor minister Bob Kucera said the sentence was inadequate and that courts did not appear to give enough weight to aggravating factors.

He said the priority should be the need for punishment, followed by the victim's interests and then rehabilitation.

"I think, on this occasion, it is a bit light," he said. "It's not giving the message that older Australians want to hear. They feel the system is not supporting them."

Justice First founder and chairman James Richardson, who set up the victims' rights group after the one-punch death of his son Grant in 2009, agreed the sentence was lenient and the system focused too much on treating offenders as victims.

"There's far too much leeway given to the judiciary to make a lesser sentence," he said.

Shadow attorney-general John Quigley has called for prosecutors to appeal the three-year sentence.

“If the public prosecutor wishes to return the public’s confidence in his office then he must come out immediately and appeal,” Mr Quigley told ABC radio this morning.

The West Australian

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