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- Notable Unreported Decision
SUPREME COURT OF QUEENSLAND
R v Blockey  QCA 77
CA No 250 of 2020
Court of Appeal
Supreme Court at Brisbane – Date of Sentence: 5 November 2020 (Bond J)
21 April 2021
16 April 2021
Sofronoff P and McMurdo JA and Boddice J
CRIMINAL LAW – APPEAL AND NEW TRIAL – APPEAL AGAINST SENTENCE – GROUNDS FOR INTERFERENCE – SENTENCE MANIFESTLY EXCESSIVE OR INADEQUATE – where the applicant pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter, being a domestic violence offence – where the applicant was convicted and sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment – where a parole eligibility date was set after serving three years and nine months’ imprisonment – whether there was a misapplication of sentencing principles – whether the requirement that the applicant serve three years and nine months in actual custody was manifestly excessive
S Lewis for the applicant
Legal Aid Queensland for the applicant
- THE COURT: On 27 October 2020, the applicant pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter, being a domestic violence offence.
- On 5 November 2020, the applicant was convicted and sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment. A parole eligibility date was set after serving three years and nine months’ imprisonment.
- The applicant seeks leave to appeal that sentence. The sole ground of appeal, should leave be granted, is that the sentence was manifestly excessive.
- The applicant does not contend the sentence of nine years was manifestly excessive. Manifest excess is said to arise by reason of the requirement that she serve more than one third of that sentence in actual custody.
- The offence was committed on 23 April 2018. The applicant stabbed the deceased with a hunting knife. That action, inflicted with a moderate to severe degree of force, caused a 16 centimetre deep single stab wound below the deceased’s left collar bone. Death was caused by acute circulatory failure, respiratory failure and hypervolemic shock due to blood loss.
- The deceased and the applicant had been in a domestic relationship for some months prior to his death. During that relationship, the deceased had committed acts of domestic violence against the applicant. He was the subject of a domestic violence protection order.
- The relationship was characterised by irrational jealousy on the part of the deceased and complaints by the applicant about the deceased taking property and money. There was evidence that the applicant had, in the month before the death, told an acquaintance that, if the deceased continued to accuse her of sleeping with others, she would “stab him with Kitty and kill him”. Kitty was the name the applicant gave for the hunting knife used to kill the deceased.
- The sentencing Judge accepted that the applicant’s plea of guilty was a timely plea; that the deceased had been killed in anger; that the applicant had a past history of alcohol abuse and illicit substance abuse; and that the applicant’s adult relationships had been largely with partners who abused alcohol and illicit substances, many of whom subjected the applicant to domestic abuse.
- The sentencing Judge accepted that, having regard to the applicant’s history of having sustained repeated serial domestic violence, there was an increased likelihood of the applicant reacting aggressively when threatened or assaulted by a domestic partner.
- The sentencing Judge found that the applicant stabbed the deceased after he had pursued her into her home, with a degree of aggressive intent, and after he had, at some stage, punched or slapped the applicant causing a bruise and some bleeding. Further, the applicant, at one point, had yelled for the deceased to “get out”.
- The sentencing Judge found that:
“The fact that you were such a victim of domestic violence as well as a perpetrator of domestic violence is, to my mind, sufficient to enable me to reach the conclusion that it is not reasonable in the present circumstances to treat the fact that your offending was a domestic violence offence as an aggravating feature.”
- That said, the sentencing Judge observed the offence was a serious offence, involving taking the life of another human being, with the consequence of lasting pain and trauma to that person’s loved ones.
- The sentencing Judge accepted that the applicant was sincerely remorseful for her conduct; that the applicant had made significant progress towards rehabilitation whilst in custody; and that the applicant’s timely plea of guilty was evidence of cooperation with the administration of justice. However, that cooperation was tempered by the applicant having made false statements, initially seeking to implicate the deceased in having inflicted injury to himself and that the applicant had failed to provide any comprehensive, reliable detail concerning the stabbing itself.
- After noting that the applicant had given six differing versions of the circumstances of that stabbing, the sentencing Judge found that the applicant’s assertion that the deceased had inflicted harm on himself was false; that there was no basis to find that the deceased had armed himself with a knife; and that the applicant’s assertion that she hurt the deceased to protect herself was false.
- The sentencing Judge found that, having regard to the aggravating features and the mitigating circumstances, a sentence of nine years’ imprisonment properly reflected the applicant’s criminality. The sentencing Judge then said:
“I am not persuaded, however, that the degree of your cooperation with the administration of justice is such as would warrant giving you the benefit of a parole eligibility date set at one third of that sentence, as your counsel submitted. On the other hand, if I do not fix a parole eligibility date, you will only become eligible for parole after serving half of your nine-year sentence. That is what the law provides in section 184 of the Corrective Services Act 2006 (Qld).
It seems to me that a parole eligibility date set at three years and nine months into your sentence is appropriate, bearing in mind the degree of your cooperation with the administration of justice and your good prospects of rehabilitation.”
- The applicant submits that the requirement that the applicant serve three years and nine months in actual custody was manifestly excessive, having regard to the circumstances, and that the sentencing Judge erred in finding that the applicant’s cooperation was to be tempered by the applicant having falsely sought to initially implicate the deceased in the infliction of his own injuries and by the applicant’s failure to provide any reliable, comprehensive details of the stabbing.
- Whether a sentence warrants mitigation reflecting a parole eligibility date set after one third of a sentence or at some other time, always turns on the particular circumstances of an individual case. Further, the weight to be given to factors in the sentencing process is inherently a matter for the sentencing Judge.
- A review of the sentencing Judge’s reasons evidenced a careful approach to both the aggravating circumstances and the mitigating factors when affixing the sentence of nine years’ imprisonment. The applicant, whilst pleading guilty, had committed a serious offence involving the loss of life through the use of a knife.
- However, the sentencing Judge’s conclusion that the applicant’s cooperation was tempered by her failure to provide any comprehensive, reliable detail concerning the stabbing was inconsistent with the sentencing Judge’s conclusion that the material was insufficient to justify a finding that the applicant “engaged in consciously-informed obfuscation or denial” designed to minimise culpability.
- There was no obligation on the applicant to provide a comprehensive, detailed account of the sequence of events concerning the stabbing; the applicant had accepted unlawfully causing the victim’s death by stabbing him when she pleaded guilty to his manslaughter.
- Against that background, a finding that the applicant’s cooperation in entering a timely plea of guilty, was to be tempered by her failure to provide such an account evidenced a misapplication of sentencing principles, particularly where, as here, there was an acceptance that the applicant was sincerely remorseful for her conduct.
- That being so, it is necessary to re-exercise the sentencing discretion.
- For the reasons previously given, a sentence of nine years’ imprisonment properly reflected the applicant’s criminality. However, the applicant’s sincere and obvious remorse, and her significant steps towards rehabilitation against a background of a timely plea of guilty, support a conclusion that the applicant ought to receive a parole eligibility date fixed after having served three years of that sentence.
- We would order:
- (1)Leave to appeal against sentence be granted.
- (2)The appeal against sentence be allowed.
- (3)The parole eligibility date of 22 January 2022 be set aside.
- (4)The applicant be eligible for parole on 22 April 2021.
- (5)The sentence be otherwise confirmed.
- Published Case Name:
R v Blockey
- Shortened Case Name:
R v Blockey
 QCA 77
Sofronoff P, McMurdo JA, Boddice J
21 Apr 2021
- White Star Case: