21 September 2022

Former Queanbeyan Roos player jailed for treating victim as 'punching bag'

| Claire Fenwicke
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Queanbeyan Local Court

Simione Latu was sentenced at Queanbeyan Local Court. Photo: File.

One of Simione Latu’s supporters burst into tears as Latu was handcuffed in Queanbeyan Court and jailed over an attack at a local pub.

The cross-code sportsman – who used to play for the Queanbeyan Roos and had recently joined the Queanbeyan Whites – had previously been found guilty of common assault and assault occasioning grievous bodily harm following an incident at Campbell and George on 9 May, 2021.

At the 26-year-old’s sentencing on Monday (19 September), Judge Roger Clisdell said defence lawyer Andrew Byrnes “left no stone unturned” when fighting for an alternative to prison for the offences.

Mr Byrnes asked the judge to grant Latu another chance.

“An intensive corrections order perhaps can be made, with gritted teeth,” he said.

He outlined Latu’s remorse over the incident and that Latu admitted he had “overstepped the mark”.

Mr Byrnes said it was a “PTSD arousal” response to trauma Latu experienced as a young man, and that the offending “wasn’t all one-way traffic”.

“Looking back he realises it was simply not his place to get involved,” he said.

“Not a day goes by [he’s not sorry].”

Mr Byrnes said a “silver lining” from the offence was Latu had been able to delve into the “root cause” of his propensity towards violence, and he could start addressing those issues.

“There is hope for my client in terms of rehabilitation,” he said.

However, the prosecution argued a full-term prison sentence was more appropriate.

“The paramount consideration being the safety of the community,” she said.

“[He] was angry and punching someone on the ground [who was] defenceless.”

The prosecutor also highlighted Latu’s record of violence in the ACT and NSW, which included the “assault of a school member” in 2020.

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Ultimately Judge Clisdell found the “gratuitous violence” of this offence, and Latu’s history of violence, meant prison was the only option.

“In seven years there have been four incidents involving violence, three of them quite serious,” he said.

“[I suspect in] most of the occasions involving acts of violence, alcohol has been a contributing factor. It certainly was a contributing factor [here].”

Judge Clisdell said the common assault charge was captured on CCTV and arose from inside the licensed premises. An altercation had occurred between Latu and his victim, which saw security intervene.

“[After this], Mr Latu just rag dolls the victim across the front of the bar,” he said.

The victim then received a “fairly significant beating outside” after he was approached again by Latu as he waited for transport.

Judge Clisdell said while the victim then threw the first punch, Latu’s reaction was outside the realm of self-defence.

“It’s a classic case of alcohol-fuelled violence … [there’s] no doubt when Mr Latu is sober, he’s hard-working and able to get on,” he said.

“It’s good fortune on his behalf that the injuries sustained [by the victim] weren’t worse.”

Judge Clisdell said his sentence needed to protect the community, as no member of the public should “go out, enjoy themselves, and end up injured”.

“[The victim] didn’t deserve to be rag dolled … he didn’t deserve to be bashed while he was on the ground and get significant injuries to his eye,” he said.

“He didn’t deserve to be a punching bag.”

Latu was sentenced to 14 months’ jail, with a non-parole period of eight months. He’ll be eligible for release on 18 May, 2023.

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