'Tragic' reason why man shot, killed his criminal associate
A MEMBER of a criminal group who fatally shot an associate in northern NSW while "grossly intoxicated by amphetamines" has been sentenced to nine years behind bars.
Phillip Becker, 35, pleaded guilty to manslaughter by excessive self-defence earlier this year over the death of Ace Hall, then 31, who was shot in a car at Machinery Drive in Tweed Heads on June 24, 2017.
Mr Hall died of the single gunshot wound to the abdomen later the same day after being dumped at Tweed Hospital.
On Wednesday, Justice Richard Button sentenced Becker in the NSW Supreme Court to a maximum jail term of nine years and nine months with a non-parole period of seven years and three months for what he called a "fatal act of wanton public violence".
The court heard both Becker and Mr Hall were members of the same "criminal group" that supplied amphetamines and were employed by a "serious criminal" who had recently lost $100,000 in his drug dealing business.
The court was told that as a result the men's employer armed Mr Hall with a shotgun and Becker with the .44 revolver used in the fatal shooting.
In the lead up to the shooting an issue had developed among the group about a rental car that Mr Hall had failed to return, the court also heard.
In handing down his sentence, Justice Button called it "tragic" that Mr Hall's life "was able to be snuffed out over a few days' fees on a rental car".
"The offender has placed himself far outside the criminal law of NSW," Justice Button said, adding that he regarded the killing of Mr Hall as a manslaughter of "great gravity".
In determining a prison term, Justice Button took into account that Becker was carrying an unlawful deadly weapon in public, that the gun was loaded, that he was "grossly intoxicated by amphetamines" at the time and that he was engaged in the trade of prohibited drugs.
He also noted that Becker took steps to hide the weapon and escape justice by fleeing the scene before being arrested several days later.
However, Justice Button also noted that Becker's life had "spiralled" only after taking the drug ice instead of his ADHD medication and commencing a relationship with a sex worker.
"Before 2015 the offender had never intersected with the criminal justice system," he said.
He described Becker's chances of rehabilitation as "guardedly optimistic", despite the killing occurring while he was out on parole for drug supply.
With time served, Becker will be eligible for parole on September 26, 2024.