Edwards v Queensland Police Service [2021] QDC 88

The District Court of Queensland has recently allowed an appeal against sentence, finding that the learned Magistrate initially imposed a sentence which was manifestly excessive.

The Magistrates Court Proceedings

On 9 March 2021, Mr. Aaron Leigh Edwards (Mr. Edwards) pleaded guilty to two counts in the Magistrates Court. The first, a charge of willful damage and the second, a charge of assault occasioning bodily harm whilst armed in company.

After hearing sentencing submissions, the presiding magistrate, Magistrate Mack, imposed in relation to the more serious offending, assault occasioning bodily harm whilst armed and in company, a period of imprisonment of two and a half years with a parole release date fixed at the 5th November 2021.

In respect of the charge of wilful damage, Mr. Edwards was convicted and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment to be served concurrent with the head sentence.

The District Court Proceedings (Appeal)

On the very same date of sentence, the appeal was filed in the District Court of Queensland. The focus of the appeal related specifically to an argument that the period of imprisonment imposed (i.e. two and a-half years with a parole release date at the 1/3 mark) was manifestly excessive in all the circumstances.[1]

It was submitted that whilst the offending was serious (it included bashing the victim over the head with a base-ball bat) and that a period of imprisonment was the only appropriate penalty, the totality principle would see the Court impose a sentence that was not ultimately crushing upon the appellant. It was submitted that when considerations were given to the circumstances specific to the appellant, that the penalty imposed was so outside the range as to be manifestly excessive.[2]

The appeal of Mr. Edwards was outlined in the following terms[3]:

a) the sentence imposed is excessive;

b) the learned Magistrate erred in setting a parole release date at the 1/3 mark and did not place adequate weight on the submission by the Appellant for an immediate parole release date;

c) the learned Magistrate failed to place adequate weight on the Appellant’s level of remorse, mitigation and co-operation outlined in the psychological report;

d) The learned Magistrate failed to take into account the mental condition outlined by the psychologist as a result of sexual assault on his partner by the victim;

e) the learned Magistrate failed to place adequate weight on the Appellant’s medical requirements and their inability to be met in prison;

f) The learned Magistrate placed excessive weight on deterrent and denunciation and inadequate weight on rehabilitation taking into account the material tendered by the Appellant;

g) The learned Magistrate failed to place adequate weight on the references tendered when determining the character of the Appellant and too much weight on his criminal history; and

h) The Learned Magistrate erred in failing to place any weight on the authority of Craig v QPS [2014] QDC 50 tendered by the Appellant.

The Decision of District Court Decision

His Honour Judge Coker DCJ of the District Court of Queensland considered that the learned Magistrate had erred in failing to sufficiently consider the particular circumstances of rehabilitation as well as the defendant’s remorse, otherwise good character, and physical/psychological circumstances.

In particular, His Honour considered that, unlike previous cases which were relied upon by the Magistrate at sentence (namely, R v Hilton [2009] QCA 12), there was an extent to which Mr. Edwards’ offending conduct was in fact provoked. Indeed, it was accepted that the victim had sexually assaulted Mr. Edwards’ partner and this was a significant factor which led to the circumstances of the offending.

His Honour further reviewed the lengthy psychological reports, character references and other evidence in relation to Mr. Edwards and his good prospects with respect to rehabilitation.

Ultimately, His Honour concluded:

As such, I am of the view that in all the circumstances, the imposition of the head sentence of two and a-half years was manifestly excessive, in that it was outside the range of what would have been appropriate in respect of this matter, noting particularly that the penalty imposed was greater than that which had been submitted as being appropriate by both the prosecution and the Defence. Further, that the sentence does not clearly provide any basis upon which it could be suggested that the learned Magistrate has balanced the considerations with regard to deterrence and denunciation with the particular considerations of rehabilitation, and in this particular instance, the specific considerations arise with regard to both the physical and psychological circumstances of the appellant, such that the appeal should be upheld…” [4]

His Honour set aside the sentence imposed by the Magistrate and re-sentenced Mr. Edwards to a head sentence of 18 months imprisonment with a parole release date fixed at 19 May 2021. In essence, following 132 days of pre-sentence custody, Mr. Edwards was released immediately on parole.

This article was written by Luke Borgert

[1] Edwards v QPS [2021] QDC 88, [5].

[2] Edwards v QPS [2021[ QDC 88, [62].

[3] Edwards v QPS [2021] QDC 88, [4].

[4] Edwards v QPS [2021] QDC 88, [67].

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