Anti-violence groups are outraged by the sentence handed to Thomas Kelly’s killer.
Kieran Loveridge, 19, was sentenced on Friday to a non-parole period of four years for Kelly’s manslaughter, with a maximum of six years.
The government reacted belatedly, announcing it would introduce a “one-punch” law that would see offenders locked up for as much as 20 years.
Under the proposed new law, offenders would be charged with assault causing death, rather than manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.
Kelly was 18 when he was kinghit by Loveridge in a drunken, unprovoked attack at Kings Cross in July 2012.
Ken Marslew, from the Enough is Enough Anti-Violence Movement, said the sentence handed down by Justice Stephen Campbell was ridiculous.
“What are we as a community prepared to accept as justice?” he asked. “Surely not this.”
People have taken to social media and talkback radio to vent their anger, with comments ranging from abuse of the offender to calls for tougher sentencing.
“There are people incarcerated for longer times for robbery and theft than this guy gets for taking an innocent life. No provocation or argument, just walking down the street and his life is over,” one woman wrote on Facebook.
“This is totally disgusting and so unfair. Bastard!” another wrote on Twitter.
Loveridge was originally charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter. The NSW maximum for manslaughter of 25 years has never been given; everyone convicted received less than 10 years’ imprisonment.
To satisfy a murder offence, there must be an intention to murder. Justice Campbell found Loveridge was “very drunk” the night he punched Kelly and said the attack was spontaneous and unpremeditated.
The Kellys argue that manslaughter is the “catch-all” offence for every death that doesn’t satisfy the elements of a murder offence. Thomas’s mother, Kathy, said she was horrified by the four-year sentence, which she described as “an absolute joke”.
Speaking on the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program, Mrs Kelly and her husband Ralph said they had been let down by the legal system.
“There hasn’t been a night that I haven’t gone to sleep in tears,” Mrs Kelly said. “You don’t think that you have to fight the legal system to find justice.”
She told the media she had not seen the details of the proposed law, but she believed the public wanted change.
The Kellys have started an online petition asking the state government to introduce an offence that “deals specifically with the death of a person as a result of a violent act but does not reach the necessary threshold to establish murder”.
“We believe there has to be an ‘in between’ area between accidental death that occurs in tragic circumstances and the offence of ‘murder’, with minimum sentences being applied,” they said.
The Kellys believe it is only a matter of time before the next person was killed by a kinghit, and they want to spare other families from the same fate.
Ken Marslew is organising a rally to be held next week in protest against the sentence. The public is invited to attend at Martin Place (top level) at noon on Tuesday, November 19. – Evan Zlatkis