Woman, child dragged to fire in terrifying campsite rampage
A court has heard distressing details of how a woman lay over her child to protect her as her partner attacked her before he dragged a tent, with the pair inside, towards a campfire.
Damien Lachlan Forrester, 38, was sentenced in Bundaberg District Court on Monday after previously pleading guilty to one charge of assault occasioning bodily harm while armed and wilful damage, both as domestic violence offences.
Forrester and his former partner were at Bottle Creek, north of Bundaberg, in September 2018 where they were setting up a campsite.
Forrester had been drinking throughout the day.
While setting up the victim asked Forrester for help putting up the tent while he was starting a fire but she was met with verbal abuse.
The victim sat on the Esky and had a drink before Forrester said to her "stop f---ing drinking my drink, you useless f---ing b---h".
He then punched her in the face causing her to fall down and continued calling her more derogatory names.
Forrester threw food items at her from the Esky while she was on the ground.
The victim picked up her daughter and went into the tent in an attempt to protect them both with Forrester still throwing food at her.
He eventually threw the whole Esky at the tent which caused it to collapse, all while threatening to kill the victim.
While the victim and child were still inside, Forrester picked up the corner of the tent and dragged it to the fire.
The victim managed to get herself and her child out of the tent, before fleeing and hiding behind a tree.
Forrester's verbal abuse continued as he threw things onto the fire including clothing, swags, fishing rods, toys and the child's bike.
He then turned his attention to the victim's car smashing the headlights, tail lights and damaging the interior and threw the keys into the creek.
The victim was able to find her phone and used it to call her mother and Forrester's father for help.
Crown prosecutor Erin Kelly told the court the victim sustained bruising and grazes from the attack.
The court heard when initially being interviewed by police, Forrester made some admissions but denied assaulting the victim.
Ms Kelly said Forrester had previously spent 67 days in pre-sentence custody which was declarable, and his plea could be considered as "timely" with some previous serious charges being discontinued.
She said the offending was aggravated by the fact it had occurred in a domestic violence setting and there were threats to kill her in front of a child.
She submitted a sentence of imprisonment of no less than 18 months was within range and was of the view Forrester had not spent enough time in custody.
Forrester's barrister Damian Walsh told the court his client claimed to have "very little memory" of the incident and at the time had issues with alcohol and would drink between six to twelve standard drinks most days.
He said Forrester's alcohol issues arose after the death of one of his children from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Mr Walsh said Forrester, who was based at Landsborough, had attended ATODs at the Sunshine Coast to get help with his alcohol issues.
He said Forrester had not seen or been a problem to the victim since the incident and was now alcohol free.
Judge Michael Rackemann took into account Forrester's plea came at a timely opportunity and that the offending happened in a remote location at night, was towards a woman and in front of a child.
During sentencing, Judge Rackemann described Forrester's conduct as "unprovoked", "irrational" and "violent".
"All of this would have been a terrifying experience," he said.
"It was in a remote location, at night time, it was committed against a woman and in front of a child.
"That you would continue an attack on a cowering mother, hiding from you and protecting her daughter is quite frankly disgraceful."
Judge Rackemann also took into account that while Forrester had been in the community he had not been a "further problem" to the victim and had sought counselling to overcome his issues with alcohol.
He also took into account the steps he had taken to further educate himself to further employment prospects and declared the 67 days Forrester had previously spent in custody as time already served.
He said while Forrester had spent "considerable time in the community" and progressed his rehabilitation efforts, just over two months in custody was "insufficient" to reflect the seriousness of the offence.
Judge Rackemann said he would grant Forrester an earlier-than-normal parole release so he could continue his rehabilitation efforts.
Forrester received a head sentence of 18 months imprisonment with a parole release of July 10.
NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CRISIS SERVICES
1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732
Australian Childhood Foundation: 1800 176 453
MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277
Originally published as Woman, child dragged to fire in terrifying campsite rampage