James Haberfield leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Picture: AAP
James Haberfield leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Picture: AAP

Judge points finger over ambo basher dodging jail

A THUG who bashed two paramedics while high on a cocktail of party drugs should be behind bars if prosecutors did their job properly, a judge has said.

James Haberfield, 22, sidestepped mandatory sentencing laws and avoided a prison term after admitting to attacking the paramedics.

Instead he was placed on an 18-month Community Correction Order with a Mandatory Treatment and Monitoring Order in a move that sparked outrage among the community.

The sentence, handed down in the Melbourne Magistrates Court in August, was appealed to the County Court by the director of public prosecutions.

County Court judge Michael Tinney said today Haberfield should have certainly been jailed by the magistrate.

Paramedic Monica outside the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Picture: AAP
Paramedic Monica outside the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Picture: AAP

But he said that fact could have no bearing on the appeal before him, particularly because there was fresh evidence before him that wasn't available to the magistrate.

Specifically a new psychiatric report that has found Haberfield is schizophrenic.

Judge Tinney said Magistrate Simon Zebrowski, who originally sentenced Haberfield, had no choice but to send him to jail.

And he questioned both prosecutors and Haberfield's own lawyers about why they didn't pull the magistrate up on his error.

"They've got a duty...to tell the magistrate if he's falling into error," he said of prosecutors before warning Haberfield's lawyers: "Your client would have been sent to prison if people had have been doing their job."

He said a minimum six month jail term would have definitely been imposed "if someone stood up and did their job."

Judge Tinney said the mandatory sentencing laws had significantly altered traditional sentencing practices, with parliament making it clear that an attack on an emergency service worker should lead to jail.

James Haberfield leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Picture: AAP
James Haberfield leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Picture: AAP

"When you look at the setting of these laws coming into force...they're unmistakably directly intending to change the way courts are dealing with certain matters," he said.

"It's obvious what they're saying...the guiding lights, the foundational sort of principles we are so used to applying as judges, are very deliberately altered by the parliament.

"Don't assault emergency workers, it's as plain as day that's what they have in mind.

"I've got to send him to prison whether I think that's a good idea or a bad idea, sensible or silly."

Haberfield has admitted launching a frenzied attack on a female paramedic, Monica, placing her in a headlock and punching her several times in the face.

He had gone into a psychotic state after the four-day Rainbow Serpent festival in January, where he'd consumed a cocktail of drugs including ice, MDMA and ketamine.

Special reasons were found to exist, sparing him jail, because of a finding that he had an impaired mental functioning.

But the DPP has argued the impairment was caused solely by a self-induced intoxication and it was not open to the magistrate to impose any sentence other than a custodial sentence.

Forensic psychiatrist Andrew Carroll said today while self-induced intoxication was clearly present, it wasn't a sufficient explanation for Haberfield's offending.

The appeal continues.

shannon.deery@news.com.au


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