Citizens of the nation’s bush capital are extremely nervous on at least two fronts.
1. Any time now there may be convoys of wannabe killers crossing the border, weapons strapped to their roof racks, and
2. Parents of acne prone youths may be rushing to the doctor to get treatment for their offspring as fast and as expensively as possible.
Last week a five-year jail term was handed down to ACT resident Glen Porritt who was found guilty of the manslaughter of his mother Nanette after stabbing her 57 times in December 2005.
He had been charged with murder but the Chief Justice Terry Higgins found the 23-year old guilty of manslaughter.
Mother Porritt had refused to reimburse little Glen $7,000 for his acne treatment.
The sentence was suspended on the basis that the offender had already served 22-months, so he walked free.
Glen elected to have the judge hear the matter without a jury and so we have the benefit of Higgins CJ’s reasoning.
The defence led by John Harris successfully painted a picture of mother Porritt as a ferocious and intimidating woman, whose punishment of her children was extreme and cruel.
Young Glen had even gone to a solicitor for advice on how to sue his parents for “child abuse”, namely confiscating his prescription for acne treatment and locking up food in a storage room so the kiddies couldn’t eat.
Glen’s sister Jenna testified:
“She [Nanette] would try varied means of controlling her children, one of which was to put them in a circumstance where they couldn’t possibly hold out for an extended period of time.”
William Dawe, for the crown, pointed to online chats that Glen had with his sister. This one was eight months before Nanette’s demise:
“They have ruined my life, now they must pay, so they must go to prison for my safety. I intend to end their lives. If it were not illegal. I would stab them, however I do not wish to go to jail.”
The crown said that Glen had ambushed Nanette (pic) in her bedroom and attacked her while she was lying down reading.
He had gone to the house to demand compensation for his “childhood suffering”.
There was blood splatter evidence that suggested that she had been stabbed while in a position low to the ground.
The defence said Mum came at Glen with a knife and he restrained her to avoid being stabbed.
In the struggle Nanette copped the blade 57 times as he pushed her knife wielding hand back towards her.
Higgins was not convinced by the crown’s evidence on the blood splatters.
He found the crown had failed to prove that the accused intended to kill his Mum or that he had acted with reckless indifference to the probability of causing her death.
Instead, he thought that Glen (pic) had been “extraordinarily negligent” because apparently it hadn’t occurred to him that the knife was being “lethally deployed”.
The ACT DPP has been singularly unsuccessful in establishing intent to murder. It has been more than 10 years since anyone was sent down for murder beside the Molonglo.
The last time that happened was in the case of the former federal copper John Conway who hatched a plan with his girlfriend to bump off his wife Ricky Conway in her Evatt home.
More often in Canberra murder charges are reduced to manslaughter, dismissed or lost on appeal.
Remember Joe Cinque’s Consolation.
The David Eastman case is a singularly weird ACT conviction. The former public servant went down for the 1989 murder of AFP assistant commissioner Colin Winchester.
Eastman may have been nutty, but many in Canberra are quite unconvinced he slugged Winchester.
So, there you go.
The talk in many legal shops and around popular watering holes is that ACT parents ought to be wary of smoldering, acne prone kids harbouring grudges.
Nanette’s family is not overjoyed at the outcome and the attorney general Simon (Boy Wonder) Corbell rattled on about law reform to fetter sentencing discretion.
Bill Stefaniak, the shadow AG, himself a former prosecutor, made noises about how sentences should reflect community expectations and that this sentence was wanting.
TV pics showed young Glen walking to the family car with his Dad and sister.
Sales of medications for acne are booming in the territory as anxious parents rush to shore up their longevity.
* * *
In fresh excitements to hand, after a suspenseful eight months wait, the ACT regime has just appointed a new DPP.
He’s Jon White, who for many years has been a prosecutor with the Commonwealth DPP.
He was even running Canberra prosecutions before the ACT became self-governing.
He replaces Richard Rough-Shagger, who went to the ACT Supreme Court last December.
Since then six of the territory’s 26 prosecutors have bailed out and there’s a crisis of confidence.
Whitey told the ABC:
“There is great competition in the legal market for bright young lawyers and there are a lot of attractions to being a prosecutor. Money is probably not first amongst them … I have no doubt we will be able to attract the right sort of person.”
ACT Law Society prez Rod Barnett offered this observation about the appointment:
“Being sourced from the Commonwealth DPP will allow him to hit the ground running.”
A few at the local bar ‘n’ grill were grumbling.
“It should have been a high powered prosecutor from interstate.”
The difficulty is the pay. A public defender at Port Macquarie pulls down more than the ACT DPP.
At least they didn’t get snappy magistrate Grant Lalor as the top prosecutor.
And what of the chief magistrate Ron Cahill, who seems to be in wind-down mode? Surely a new appointment cannot be far away.
I’ll keep an eye out.
Cheers for now,