Top 10 court stories of 2019
IT was a busy year at the Rockhampton courthouse with many high profile cases dealt with by magistrates, judges and Justice Graeme Crow.
Number 1 - Ian Coombe
The year started with former president of Central Queensland Rugby Union Ian John Coombe, 56, being jailed for five years after fraudulently obtaining a $465,000 loan. The jail term, handed down on January 15, was to be suspended after 18 months.
Coombe, had been involved with the rugby union club since 1979 and was a principal creditor.
He used the club's grounds at The Range, which were worth $800,000 to a million dollars, as security.
Number 2 - Teens crime spree sees school artwork destroyed by fire
STUDENT artwork was among the items destroyed when two juveniles went on an arson spree through a Rockhampton high school last year that caused more than $148,000 in damage.
In May, two young males were sentenced for those crimes, along with other crimes committed with two other young male associates.
The four juveniles, aged 13 to 17, were sentenced in Rockhampton District Court for an array of offences including arson, burglary, attempted robbery, break and enter, unlawful use of motor vehicles, wilful damage, public nuisance, theft and assault.
Crown prosecutor Tiffany Lawrence said Master C told the presentence report writer he had a disagreement with school staff and had gone to the school to trespass for fun, but had not intended to do damage.
She said he told the report writer it was only after the pair found flammable glue in a construction site that they decided to light the fires.
The group also targetted businesses. Master D broke into Cranston's Pies by smashing the drive-thru window with a piece of concrete on January 6, 2019. He then entered the food shop and cracked the glass doors of the fridge doors. Master D also tried to steal the cash register, damaging it.
The total damage bill at Cranston's was $5000.
Number 3 - Hammer to head assault
The images of nightmares were seen by a jury, media and other court attendees during the trial of Noa Ronnie Etheridge in March after he pleaded not guilty to attempted murder of Kerry Gittins.
He also pleaded not guilty to assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm in relation to the assault against Ms Gittins in her Koongal home on January 9, 2018.
Etheridge pleaded guilty to unlawful act of grievous bodily harm.
During the trial, evidence produced included testimony from Ms Gittins's daughter and her partner who were the first people to see Ms Gittins after her attack, along with a paramedic and Brisbane-based neurosurgeon Dr Jed Robusto.
Ms Gittins, 56 at the time of the assault, had gone to get a bottle of water for Etheridge, who had turned up on her doorstep about 6.30am covered in mud, when she was attacked.
She sustained two blows to her skull by a hammer and doesn't recall the attack.
However, Ms Gittins managed to drive an ATV down the driveway to her daughter's place.
A horrifying photograph shown to the jury during the trial showed Ms Gittins covered in blood with open wounds to her temples as she sat in the ATV being treated by Queensland Ambulance paramedics.
"It was immense pain," Ms Gittins told the jury.
"I can't remember a lot. I remember it was my head … I was paralysed. I couldn't run. I couldn't scream. I couldn't do anything."
Dr Robusto said if head injuries from hammer blows to Kerry Gittins's temples were left untreated, she would have likely suffered "death or severe morbidity".
"The injury penetrated right to the brain matter," Dr Robusto said.
Etheridge, was found guilty and sentenced in the Supreme Court in Rockhampton to 16 years prison for attempted murder.
Ms Gittins was not his first victim.
At the time he assaulted Ms Gittins, he was on parole after receiving a five-year prison term for dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death after he ran over 17-year-old Jemal Lawton on Rockonia Rd, Rockhampton, at 2am on March 29, 2014, and fled the scene.
Number 4 - Central Queensland's biggest drug ring sentenced
Four people from a drug trafficking ring that brought 10kgs of methamphetamine and 12kgs of cannabis as well as MDMA (pill form) and cocaine into Rockhampton over a 10-month period in 2016/17 were sentenced in 2019.
Gregory Leo Lowien, 62, was sentenced in August to 10 years prison - required by legislation to serve at least eight years - for his role in a drug trafficking ring that imported 10kgs of methamphetamines into the Beef Capital over a 10-month period in 10 trips.
He had already served 781 days in pre-sentence custody leaving just under six years minimum to serve.
The syndicate, which made $850,000 profit and involved four members, transported meth, marijuana, cocaine and MDMA into Rockhampton in 2016-17 via road and Australia Post with drugs sourced from Sydney, China and Cambodia
Brenden Michael Manitzky - who was sentenced for his role - was the principal courier for the syndicate, driving inland from Rockhampton through Goondiwindi, stopping overnight at Singleton on 10 occasions before driving to Sydney to pick up drugs which included 12kg of marijuana, MDMA and sometimes 150g parcels of cocaine.
Manitzky was intercepted by police at Dululu after being stopped for an RBT about 1.30pm on March 2, 2017, during which police found 1kg of ice, 7.9kg of cannabis and 170g of cocaine worth $1.2 million.
Brendan Arthur Lynch was sentenced to seven years jail with a parole eligibility date of February 14, 2022, on numerous charges of supplying, trafficking, and possessing dangerous drugs.
Lowien had boasted to an undercover agent that he and Lynch were making between $150,000 to $220,000 a month which would equate to between $1.5m and $2.2m during the trafficking period.
Rebecca Michelle Cooke, 38, was sentenced in February after she accepted packages for more than 10 months for a self-boasting "biggest (drug) shifter in town". She received a six and a half year prison term with parole eligibility after two years. She had no criminal history prior to this sentence.
Number 5 - Lattrell Dodd
HE WAS only 12-weeks-old when he died from injuries inflicted by people who were supposed to be caring for him.
Lattrell Dodd's father Christopher Allan Holland was sentenced in relation to his death in 2019. The baby's mother, Megan Freeman, 26, was also sentenced.
Freeman was sentenced to 18 months with parole release on September 25 after she pleaded guilty to one count of cruelty to a child under 16. She was heavily pregnant when she was sentenced.
Lattrell had been placed in the care of Tanya Dodd after his birth, but 31 days before he died, his biological parents took him back into their custody to a place full of drugs, alcohol and violence.
It was during this period that Lattrell sustained such injuries that left him with seven skull fractures, bilateral subretinal haemorrhages and 32 fractures to his body including 17 to his ribs.
He died on May 31, 2013, aged 12 weeks.
"The extent of the injuries to the infant are quite extraordinary," Justice Crow said.
"They are not pleasant to look at. The lump on his left shoulder is obvious - it looks like a balloon.
"He was very badly injured.
"The fatal ones were the injuries to his head."
Holland, had a 15 page criminal history with his first violent act committed when he was 15-years-old. He was sentenced in May in the Supreme Court in Rockhampton to 10 years jail with a serious violent offence declaration attached to his manslaughter conviction.
Number 6 - Girl, 15, attempts to murder mother on Christmas night
A 18-YEARD-OLD girl, with no criminal history, spent two years in detention waiting for a trial after she slit her mother's throat and slashed her father's leg on Christmas night in 2016.
Justice Graeme Crow said the teen wanted to move way from her parents temporarily.
He said the teen, who was 15 at the time, had spent Christmas Day with her parents and siblings and when everyone went to bed, the teen took two knives from the kitchen, one which she used to assault her parents.
Justice Crow said she entered their bedroom between midnight and at 1am, slit her mother's throat which woke her up.
Defence barrister Andrew Hoare said there was no other case like this as the teen had no prior criminal history, no previous verbal or physically aggressive behaviour.
The father sustained a 10cm laceration to his left upper back, a 12cm laceration to his left upper chest and a 15cm laceration to the left upper leg.
Justice Crow ordered her to an 18-month detention sentence, which she had already served, including an additional six months while waiting for trial on the attempted murder charges that were discontinued in January.
No convictions were recorded.
Number 7 - Fishers take on Gladstone Ports Corporation in class action, attempt to axe 400-year tort
A LANDMARK decision was made in the Supreme Court in Rockhampton in 2019 when Justice Graeme Crow was asked to axe a 400-year tort and pave the way for class actions funded by litigation companies in the future.
The case came about when Gladstone Ports Corporation lawyers argued a funding agreement between more than 150 fishermen and associated businesses and Litigation Capital Management was "vexatious" and in breach of the tort Champerty.
The class of more than 150 business people seeks up to $150 million for damages, claiming dredging works carried out by GPC in 2010/11 resulted in negative water quality, poor fish health and decreased fish numbers and therefore impacted businesses along the east coast from Bowen to Sydney.
GPC tried to have the class action stopped by raising concerns that the fishers' funding agreement with Litigation Capital Management was "unenforceable" (invalid) by "reason of maintenance, champerty or public policy".
Champerty is a legal restriction - which originated in Britain in the 1600s and has been law in Queensland since the 1800s - that precludes frivolous or vexatious litigation, along with maintenance funded by a third party for a share of the lawsuit win.
A hearing was held in Rockhampton in July with Justice Crow handing down his decision in September in favour of the fishers, however, he did not officially abolish the torts.
Number 8 - Dad rapes daughter, her friend and produces child porn
"YOU are truly evil," a mother told the man who took her pre-pubescent daughter's innocence away when he used her to produce child porn over a two-year period and raped her.
He also raped his own daughter and attempted to rape another of her friends.
The man, in his 50s, was sentenced to 11 years prison in Rockhampton District Court on December 19 for 19 offences including two of maintaining sexual relationships with children, three of producing child exploitation material, three of rape, one of attempted rape, 10 counts of indecent treatment of children and two of possessing firearms.
Judge Michael Burnett, whose voice quivered with emotion during the end of sentencing remarks, described the offending as "a gross and disturbing litany of material" produced by the defendant of "truly horrendous" events.
Police executed a search warrant at the man's Capricorn Coast residence in September 2017 and found a USB containing 102 photographs and six videos of local victims.
Of the 102 CEM photographs, 33 CEM photographs featured the man's daughter's friend.
The known victims were aged nine to 12 years old during the offending period of two years and there was at least one other unidentified child depicted in 17 child porn photographs.
Number 9 - WIN TV arson trial
HE was 18-years-old at the time he lit a fire in the abandoned WIN Television Building, causing $480,000 of damage to the iconic building on Dean St.
Now, Matthew Geiszler will spend two years of a four year jail term in prison before being eligible for parole.
Geiszler, 21, was found guilty of arson after a four day trial in Rockhampton District Court last year.
Emergency services arrived at the fire scene at 192 Dean St at 10.36pm on June 17, 2016.
The court heard the forensic officer found bare footprints on three of four cupboard doors on the floor which were covered in soot.
Number 10 - The Edge Restaurant civil matters
A ROCKHAMPTON family company that operated a restaurant along the riverfront has been placed into liquidation in October.
Merlot Gordon Pty Ltd was the last company that held the lease for the restaurant at The Edge apartments on Victoria Parade and is amid two lawsuits in the Supreme Court regarding rent owed and alleged negligence by Merlot Gordon's solicitors when the company took over the lease in March 2017.
Merlot Gordon is owned by Mark, Alexander and Aaron Gordon, with the company registered as being in Frenchville.
They engaged Olsen Lawyers when they acquired the business from I&H Jones Pty Ltd who had signed the original lease on January 19, 2016 for a 10-year period.
Court documents show the first year of the lease cost $182,000. The restaurant is still advertised to be leased, with the annual cost now down to $70,000.
The Edge owners Rina Lim Siew Wan and Jordan Neo Beng Chye took back possession of the restaurant on October 3 last year changing the locks and hiring cleaning services for the premises.
The owners filed a claim for past and future rent of nearly $2 million with Supreme Court Justice Graeme Crow following a hearing in May, ordering Merlot Gordon pay $128,175.56 in outstanding rent, costs involved in terminating the lease, interest and court costs.