By Paul Gregoire and Ugur Nedim
On the morning of 14 February 2013, Jesse Lunn-Reid entered the bathroom at his ex-partner’s home, brandishing a knife with a 15 centimetre blade. The man was enraged because he believed the woman – who was running a bath at the time – had become involved with another man.
Mr Lunn-Reid repeatedly stabbed the woman in the head, face and throat. After hearing screaming, the victim’s younger sister ran into the bathroom and stood in between her sister and the assailant. The man then swung the knife at her and cut the woman’s face.
The victim took the opportunity to flee her home and Mr Lunn-Reid pursued her. Eventually, the young woman, who was covered in blood, arrived at a building site where workmen were present. Her assailant then arrived at the scene holding the knife upright in a stabbing position.
A number of the workmen were able to persuade Lunn-Reid to drop his weapon. And as he did, he looked down at his former partner who had collapsed on the ground by this stage and he said, “I love you.”
The charges before the court
Mr Lunn-Reid pleaded guilty to two charges. The first was for one count of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, contrary to section 33 of the Crimes Act 1900. This offence carries a maximum penalty of up to 25 year behind bars.
The offence also carries a standard non-parole period of 7 years gaol time. An SNPP is a reference point for the sentencing judge when determining the minimum time a person must spend behind bars before being eligible to apply for release on parole.
A long-time offender
At the time of sentencing, Mr Lunn-Reid was already in prison following several other criminal trials. In October 2011, accompanied by another man, Lunn-Reid entered the house of a young couple he knew and beat the male occupant in the head with an axe handle.
Then in November that same year, the offender and his father entered the home of a man he believed sexually assaulted him as a child. Lunn-Reid bashed the man with a wooden paling and once it broke, he stabbed the man with the pointy end.
And Lunn-Reid was also sentenced to prison time over an incident that happened while he was in Goulburn Correctional Centre. He and another inmate repeatedly kicked a man who had fallen to the ground after a third assailant had punched him in the face.
A history of mental illness
NSW District Court Judge Raymond McLoughlin referred to a report by Dr Westmore that outlined Lunn-Reid had suffered schizophrenia since he was 15 years of age. And it also stated that the offender’s use of illegal drugs exacerbated his condition.
His Honour said that Lunn-Reid’s underlying mental condition had contributed to the offending, but his crimes couldn’t solely be blamed upon it. And he also found special circumstances, meaning Lunn-Reid could serve a lengthier period of time on parole, so he could undertake rehabilitation.
On 18 August 2016, Judge McLoughlin sentenced Lunn-Reid to 9 years and 6 months prison time, with a non-parole period of 6 years and 10 months. He also indicated that the separate sentences for each offence had been reduced by around 10 percent due to the offender’s early guilty pleas.
Mr Lunn-Reid appealed his sentence to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal (NSWCCA) on 27 April this year. He did so on two grounds. The first was that the sentencing judge failed to give effect to his finding of special circumstances.
Section 44 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 requires that when a parole period must not exceed one-third of the period behind bars, unless special circumstances are found, in which case the non-parole period (which is the period in custody) can be shorter to allow for a longer time spent on parole.
NSWCCA Justice Richard Button explained that the non-parole period for the wounding sentence was 68 percent and this reflected special circumstances. But, when the two sentences were combined the non-parole period was actually 72 percent, which was closer to the statutory ratio.
And further, when the sentence handed down by Judge McLoughlin was combined with the three other sentences the offender was already in prison for, the non-parole period for his continuous time inside – which dated back to February 2013 – was 80 percent.
His Honour said this “slip” had occurred as the sentencing judge had to combine the two sentences he imposed alongside “a complex pre-existing sentence structure”. Justice Button upheld this ground of appeal.
A second arithmetical slip
The second ground of appeal was that the sentencing judge had made an error in applying discounts for Lunn-Reid’s early guilty pleas.
Justice Button said that the discount for the aggravated assault charge came to 15.79 percent, while for the wounding offence, a 10.71 percent discount was applied. However, there was no reason why this discrepancy in discounts should apply and there were no explanations given to account for it.
And it was also found that the sentencing judge made an error when he took contrition into account while applying the discounts. And his Honour said this could have disadvantaged Lunn-Reid as contrition was therefore not considered as a possible mitigating factor when sentencing.
For both these reasons, this ground was also upheld. Although, his Honour did point out that considering Mr Lunn-Reid’s case contrition probably wouldn’t have been considered a mitigating factor, and the misapplication of the guilty pleas actually favoured the offender.
Eligible at an earlier date
Justice Button explained that the case clearly involved an individual with a “criminogenic mental condition”, who, on the one hand, deserves sympathy and help, but, on the other hand, still presents an “undoubted serious danger” to the community.
His Honour said due to the gravity of the crimes he wasn’t going to reduce the head sentences for each offence, but he would reduce the non-parole period, so that when considering the offender’s overall time in prison his non-parole period would be 75 percent, rather than 80.
This meant that Mr Lunn-Reid would be eligible to apply for parole around eight months earlier than he previously was. His Honour then remarked, “whether the State Parole Authority will see fit to release the applicant on that day is, of course, another matter entirely.”
NSWCCA Justices Clifton Hoeben and Stephen Rothman agreed with Justice Button’s orders.