Thursday, 10 April 2008

Refugee killer loses bid for reduced jail term

A teenager who punched and killed a Sudanese refugee has failed in a court bid to have his four-year jail term reduced on the grounds that he was "immature" at the time.

Father-of-four Kuol Agang, who fled his homeland to escape endemic violence just five months before his death, was punched by the youth on an Auburn Street in January 2006.

The offender, now 19, this month narrowly failed in his bid to convince three Court of Appeal judges that the attack amounted to "juvenile behaviour" or "adolescent bravado" rather than adult thuggery.

The teenager, who was referred to as "KT" in court proceedings, still cannot be identified because of his age at the time of the offence. He was then just days short of his 17th birthday.

On the day of the killing, he was "riding shotgun" in a car driven by a 17-year-old friend while throwing eggs at passers-by.

When an egg narrowly missed Mr Agang, he retaliated by throwing a can or bottle at the teenagers' car. The teens then turned the car around.

The judge, who convicted KT of manslaughter in February last year, was told the heavy-set youth leapt from the car and said: "Let's fight" to Mr Agang before punching him heavily on the jaw.

KT later told authorities he heard a loud noise when Mr Agang fell and hit his head on the ground but rather than help, said: "You want more? I'll be back" before fleeing in the car at high speed.

He admitted during a police interview that he confronted the man for "canning the car", even though he had thrown the egg at him first.

"That's no damage. This [throwing the can at the car] is damage, money, man," he said.

Mr Agang, who weighed 60 kilograms, suffered a 10-centimetre fracture from the base to the middle of his skull and died a few days later at Westmead Hospital.

KT, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, was sentenced to four years in jail but his legal team launched an appeal, claiming the trial judge was wrong for concluding that the teenager had conducted himself in an "adult manner".

KT had left school, was employed and was physically well developed.

One of the three appeal judges, Justice Peter McClellan, agreed that the actions of KT "were typical of the irresponsible and unthinking actions of an immature person" and found that his sentence should be reduced by a year.

But the other two judges hearing the appeal backed the original judge's decision and ruled that the sentence should remain.

"I do not, with respect, consider that the conduct of the kind in question involving such a high level of criminality can be characterised simply as 'immature'," one of them, Justice Peter Hall, found.

"[KT's] offence involving, as it did, a highly-charged confrontation, an intention to injure and a very forceful blow so powerful as to fracture Mr Agang's skull, in my opinion, places it in a category beyond mere immature conduct.

"The evident mixture of anger and malevolence stamped the offence as one involving serious criminality."

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