Sentencing considerations for murdering someone over changing the TV volume and breaching quarantine ‘to see a girl’

Once an offender has entered a guilty plea, or been found guilty, it’s up to the court to determine the offender’s sentence given the defendant while taking into account any mitigating and aggravating factors under section 21A of Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW) (Act) that are relevant and known to the court. As many as 85% of criminal charges brought before the District Court of NSW end in a plea of guilty, so sentencing forms a large part of a criminal lawyer’s work. In making their sentencing orders, judges may have regard to the seven purposes of sentencing listed under section 3A of the Act, which can be summarised as follows:

  1. punishment;
  2. deterrence;
  3. protection;
  4. rehabilitation;
  5. accountability;
  6. denouncement; and
  7. recognition of harm.

One recent criminal case that caught the media’s attention was Richard Reay’s murder trial for killing his cell mate, Geoffrey Fardell at the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre in Kempsey in June 2019, allegedly after an argument over the volume of the television in their shared cell. In R v Reay (No 2) [2021] NSWSC 901, R A Hulme J rejected the accused’s claims of self-defence in an attempt to mitigate his own sentence, instead giving greater consideration to, and accepting, the Crown’s evidence of Reay’s violent history. The judge noted in his decision at [55] that ‘none of the mitigating factors listed in s 21A(3) of the Act are present,’ and ultimately sentenced Reay to a 30-year imprisonment term.

In other recent news, the Supreme Court of Victoria overturned a 7-month imprisonment term for a 20-year-old man from Perth who broke quarantine to ‘see a girl.’ The man visited Victoria in December 2020 and was subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival back home, but when the police checked his property on the 13th day, the man had gone to visit a female friend. The man pleaded guilty to one count of failing to comply with a direction. A WA Today article reported that the sentencing magistrate described the act as very selfish, stating that ‘a term of imprisonment is the only appropriate sentence for people who act so selfishly when we deal with such a dangerous virus.’ The self-represented young man, who had no prior convictions, was sentenced to a two-month imprisonment term, which was overturned by Supreme Court Justice Paul Tottle in July 2021. He re-sentenced the 20-year-old to a six month community based order and 60 hours of community service, noting that it could be inferred from the appellant’s conduct that he had ‘no appreciation that he was likely to be sentenced to a term of imprisonment.’

For those interested in learning more about sentencing considerations, Episode 19 of Hearsay with criminal lawyers Michael Vo and Matthew McAuliffe discusses sentencing from both ends of the bar table.