Thomas Kelly’s killer, Kieran Loveridge, will spend just four years in jail.
Sentencing Loveridge in the NSW Supreme Court today for the 18-year-old’s manslaughter and for four other assaults, Justice Stephen Campbell said he had expressed remorse and was “very unlikely” to reoffend.
In June, Loveridge, 19, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in jail. He also pleaded guilty to assaulting four others in Kings Cross that same night. Justice Campbell sentenced Loveridge to five to seven years for the four assaults, but a 25 per cent reduction was applied for entering early pleas.
Kelly, 18, was walking through Sydney’s notorious Kings Cross nightclub district on a night out with his girlfriend on July 7, 2012, when he was punched in an unprovoked attack. His injuries were so severe his family had to approve removal of life support in hospital two days later.
Justice Campbell said the attack was spontaneous and unpremeditated.
“Thomas must have been a wonderful young man,” Justice Campbell told the packed courtroom, which included Kelley’s family and supporters of Loveridge. “He was entirely unsuspectful of any danger.”
The court heard Loveridge had told a friend the night he hit Kelly, “I swear I am going to bash someone tonight.”
When he saw a news report about the bashing the next day he asked, “Was that one of my fights? I don’t know.”
Outside court an emotional Kathy Kelly, Thomas’s mother, said she was horrified by the sentence.
“It’s a joke … an absolute joke,” she told reporters. “[Thomas] was young, honest and at the brink of starting his life, and he’s gone. The next person could be your son. How many of our children have to die before somebody does something to change these laws?”
Mrs Kelly said the sentence was a slap on the wrist and will “never be enough, no matter what he got”.
Ralph Kelly said he was shocked beyond disbelief at the lenient sentence. He said it was time the State government did something about alcohol-fuelled violence “to make us all safe” or such attacks would continue.
“[Thoams] died for absolutely no reason,” he said. “In Sydney we should be able to walk down the street without fear of violent attacks.”
The court heard Loveridge had a criminal record as a juvenile and was on probation at the time of the attacks. With time already served in custody, he will be eligible for parole in November 2017.
Attorney-General Greg Smith has asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider appealing the leniency of the sentence. – Evan Zlatkis
The sentencing of Thomas Kelly swiftly became a catalyst for posts on social media sites such as Twitter by people frustrated at the leniency of penalties for violent assault. These were some of the milder comments.
Top photo of Thomas Kelly on holiday in New York from the website of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation which is devoted to curbing alcohol-fuelled urban violence.