'Bar was set too low' in one-punch attack sentencing
THE Attorney-General wants the sentence for Cole Miller's killer almost doubled in an appeal that could set a tough new precedent for the state's one-punch law if successful.
Armstrong Renata was last year sentenced to seven years' jail after pleading guilty to unlawful striking causing the death of Mr Miller on a night out in Fortitude Valley in 2016.
The case is one of only a handful that have been heard in Queensland involving the charge, which carries a maximum penalty of life behind bars and requires attackers to serve 80 per cent of the sentence if convicted.
Renata's seven-year jail term is the highest sentence that has so far been handed down in Queensland for the offence.
The jail term was harsher than that given to the man who killed Ipswich grandfather Lindsay Ede in an unprovoked one-hit attack at Goodna in June, 2015.
Ariik Mayot, 21, was in March last year sentenced to just under six years in jail after being the first person in Queensland to plead guilty to the new offence of unlawful striking causing death.
Angered at the leniency of the sentence, Mr Ede's brother Terry Bishop at the time argued that the court had "set the bar too low" after the State Government earlier promised to take a tougher stance on one-punch deaths.
His words may have been proven right with the Attorney-General's decision to appeal Renata's sentence.
Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath lodged an appeal against Renata's sentence in November last year, arguing it was manifestly inadequate.
Mr Bishop said he was glad Ms D'Ath had appealed, but said he was disappointed she didn't take the same action following Mayot's sentencing.
"She could have appealed back then and set a tougher precedent before Renata was sentenced," Mr Bishop said.
"The whole idea with Lindsay's case was that it was going to set a precedent.
"Other people have been killed the same way since then."
In a Queensland Court of Appeal hearing on Wednesday, Crown Prosecutor Carl Heaton QC argued Renata should have been handed a sentence of 12 years' jail for the attack that killed Mr Miller, a talented water polo player, in a Valley nightclub.
Mr Miller was knocked out and hit his head on concrete after being punched in the side of the head by Renata, who fled the scene with another man.
The 18-year-old died in hospital days later.
Mr Heaton argued Renata's actions in attacking the teen were "precisely the type of offending" that prompted the introduction of the charge in 2014, as a "very specific legislative response to a perceived community concern" about alcohol-fuelled violence.
He said unlawful striking causing death was more serious than manslaughter that involved a punch to the head or neck because the attacker is "liable for the death" and cannot argue a defence of accident.
Mr Heaton also argued comparing previous sentences for manslaughter to the current case did not reflect the specific nature of the charge - to target gratuitous violence in party areas at night.
"I come back to the circumstances of this (case), with regard to this striking offence and we see what must be an almost perfect fit," he said.
"It's difficult to conceive of a case that is more precisely fitting the factual circumstances, which attracted this striking offence.
" ... Dealing with what he (Renata) did, it is conduct that warrants, at least, the bare minimum double figures (sentence) but I submit, a sentence not less than 12 years ...
"I say the resulting penalty was too low having regard to all the things that were in his (Renata's) favour and the circumstances."
Renata's barrister John Allen QC argued the point of the legislation was not to penalise defendants more harshly than if they had been charged with manslaughter.
"Why not as some kind of guidance ... look into manslaughter sentences?" Mr Allen said.
The Court of Appeal will deliver its decision at a later date.