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Former AG s question charges for wife killer
Former AG's question charges for wife killer

Two former attorneys-general have claimed the Director of Public Prosecutions charged wife killer Bradley Wayne Jones with the wrong offence, a decision which allowed him to receive a soft sentence.

Christian Porter and his predecessor Jim McGinty have added their voices to the chorus questioning the DPP's decision to charge Jones with unlawful assault occasioning death.

Jones admitted felling his wife Saori Jones in December 2010 with a "full-on punch".

Despite Mrs Jones vomiting, bleeding and lying unconscious on the ground, he failed to call an ambulance and when she died he left her decomposing for 11 days until police arrested him.

Jones was charged with manslaughter but the DPP downgraded the charge on the grounds that the cause of death could not be established. He pleaded guilty in September to unlawful assault occasioning death.

His five-year sentence with parole eligibility after three years sparked public outrage which flared again in December after he sought access to his two children, one of whom witnessed the attack.

Mr Porter said he sought a briefing from the DPP after Jones' sentencing and concluded he should have been charged with a different offence but declined to reveal which one.

"I had my own view as to what the more appropriate charge may have been," Mr Porter, a former senior DPP lawyer, said.

"But ultimately my view was irrelevant because the DPP is an independent charging body and the attorney-general is statutorily prevented from giving any kind of direction on individual matters."

Mr McGinty said he introduced the charge of unlawful assault occasioning death after a series of one-punch deaths in 2007 and 2008, but it was never intended to be laid in domestic violence cases.

He said the charge was intended as an alternative verdict should a jury be unable to support a murder or manslaughter charge.

"It was only ever envisaged that it would be used for the classic one-punch killing, and that's often a stranger, almost invariably young men out on too much alcohol, maybe too much drugs - someone lashes out and it results in death," Mr McGinty said.

"The domestic violence situation is quite different. It would be extremely rare to have a classic one-punch in a domestic violence situation. It's almost always surrounded by ongoing violence."

Mr McGinty said Jones should have been charged with manslaughter, which can result in a life sentence.

"The police and DPP should always charge in domestic violence situations at the higher offence and then leave it up to the jury," he said.

"The police and DPP shouldn't take an easy option when dealing with domestic violence."

DPP Joe McGrath said the purpose of the one-punch charge was to make an offender accountable for a death linked to an assault but not reasonably foreseeable. There was no policy reason it could not be used after domestic violence.

Mr McGrath said the Government should consider doubling the penalty for one-punch assaults.

"In the Jones case we could not prove either the immediate cause of death or that death was reasonably foreseeable from the assault," he said. "It was considered that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction for manslaughter."

He said domestic violence offenders would be pursued vigorously.

"The DPP will always argue the most serious charge if the charge is open," he added.