Family fight spills into courtroom
CLENCHING his hands and hunching his shoulders while sitting inside a glass-walled dock, a young man with autism stands before a judge charged with assault after a family fight got out of hand.
The 20-year-old Mackay region man, who is illiterate and coping with severe mental health problems, pleads guilty in Mackay District Court before the bailiff has even finished reading the charge.
The young man, who the Daily Mercury has chosen not to name, stands charged with common assault (domestic violence) after a verbal argument escalated.
The court heard the man's family members were arguing and the incident escalated to the point he began acting aggressively towards his sister.
When she tried to calm him down, he slapped her, punched her and pulled her hair before threatening his mother.
The court heard the sister sustained "minor injuries”. Crown Prosecutor Tiffany Lawrence said these included a bruise to the left forearm and tenderness to other parts of her body.
Defence barrister Matt Heelan said his client's late-stage autism diagnosis meant "he struggled with life” and grew up highly isolated from his peers who bullied him.
Further isolating the young man, Mr Heelan said, was an "appalling failure” of the education system in which he reached grade nine without intervention despite the fact he could not read.
"He is a person who takes things very literally,” he said.
"He told me in conference he is anxious about the judge sending him to jail for hitting his sister, he is anxious about being a convicted criminal and said some of his family members ... tease him about going to jail.
"He feels very bad and very guilty for hurting his sister. He cannot explain why he acted violently and said he never wants to act like that again.”
Judge Tony Moynihan QC said he took a number of matters into consideration while sentencing.
"You are young, with no criminal history and that is a matter that attracts special leniency in the hope it will promote rehabilitation,” he said. "You are facing a number of challenges.”
The accused man was ordered to serve probation for one year.
No conviction was recorded.