Friday, 5 September 2008

Man jailed for killing son over pet dog

A man has been sentenced to more than 18 years' jail for killing his son after an argument about a pet dog.

Gregory Mark Howard, 51, and his son Jacob Digby, 23, had been enjoying a day of shopping and a few drinks over lunch when they came to blows outside a Punchbowl service station on August 19, 2006.

Mr Digby had directed his dog to sit outside the door and when Howard moved the dog an argument ensued between the two, resulting in Howard holding a knife to his son's throat.

No one was harmed in the heated exchange and the two, who lived in separate properties in the same Punchbowl street, returned to their homes.

Later that evening, when Mr Digby confronted his father about the argument, Howard shot him once in the chest and once in the head.

He was due to stand trial in the NSW Supreme Court earlier this year for murder but pleaded guilty on the first day of the hearing.

During his sentencing today, the court heard Howard fired a warning shot at Mr Digby who continued to move towards him undeterred. He then closed his eyes and fired two more shots at his son.

"I've just shot my son dead," he told the Triple-O operator. "I fired a warning shot to go away and he was gunna beat the s--t out of me ... and I shot him again and he's dead."

Justice Robert Hulme noted that both Howard and his son were alcoholics who had been drinking earlier that day.

There were "elements of provocation" in Mr Digby's behaviour, Justice Hulme said. However it "did not come close" to justifying Howard's reaction.

"Common experience indicates that those affected by alcohol do not always act sensibly toward others," he said.

Justice Hulme said he was satisfied that Howard had shown remorse, that he had good prospects of rehabilitation and was unlikely to reoffend.

"I have no doubt also that these feelings are the stronger for the fact that it was his own flesh and blood that the prisoner killed and that, independently of any sentence I impose, the prisoner is suffering substantially for his crime."

He sentenced Howard to 18 and a half years in jail with a non-parole period of 14 years.

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