A knife-wielding man who attacked a police officer in his car when on parole after being jailed for stabbing a body-building Russian doctor in the eye has had his jail sentence reduced because Corrections Victoria bungled his release.
The Court of Appeal president Justice Chris Maxwell and Justices Phillip Priest and Paul Coghlan said the attack by Arthur Aggelidis on the police officer “was both entirely predictable and almost certainly preventable”.
Aggelidis, 32, of Reservoir, had appealed against his conviction and sentence after a County Court jury found him guilty in October 2012 of one count of reckless conduct endangering life and he was jailed for four years with a non-parole period of two years and nine months.
Police had been searching for Aggelidis after being contacted by his mother, who was concerned for his welfare. She had spoken to him on the phone and he was crying over his father’s death and talking about self-harm.
Aggelidis, who suffers from an extreme psychiatric condition, ran away from police when a dog squad unit approached him about 2am on May 21, 2011.
He later walked to the driver’s side of a police car and lunged at an officer with a knife. The knife grazed the officer’s face but he was able to drive off.
Aggelidis had been on parole at the time after being jailed in October 2008 for intentionally causing serious injury to Edward Dib on April 28, 2007.
The pair had been fighting when Aggelidis stabbed Dr Dib, who gained his medical degree from St Petersburg in 2000, in the left eye.
Dr Dib, a bodybuilder who took steroids, was in a coma for some time, lost his left eye, suffered substantial paralysis to the right side of his body and had a speech impediment.
Aggelidis was released on parole on April 27, 2012 – 24 days before he attacked the police officer.
“The crucial feature, in my view, is that the appellant’s (Aggelidis’) relapse into mental illness – and into offending behaviour – can be traced directly to the inexplicable failure of the correctional authorities, at the time of his release on parole, to make the necessary arrangements for his transition back into the community,” Justice Maxwell said in the Court of Appeal judgment.
“This was his third parole release since July 24, 2009. On each previous occasion, he had breached his parole and was returned to custody.
“Defence counsel told the (sentencing) judge that, on both of the earlier occasions when the appellant was released on parole – in July 2009 and May 2010 – he had been given no form of identification and no medication.
“Counsel explained that, without identification, he was unable to obtain a prescription for medication. Without medication, and without support services, he quickly relapsed – and re-offended – and his parole was cancelled.
“Exactly the same thing occurred – for the third time – when the appellant was released on April 27, 2011. No provision had been made for appropriate accommodation; he did not have a referral to an area mental health service; there had been no pre-release visit from Centrelink; and he was not given personal identification documents, which he needed in order to obtain assistance and treatment.
“Counsel for the appellant maintained that his release in such circumstances triggered an involuntary relapse into severe mental illness, which substantially diminished his personal culpability for this offending, and the relevance of both specific and general deterrence.
“Given what had occurred on the two previous releases on parole, this relapse was both entirely predictable and almost certainly preventable.
“Both the appellant and the community were entitled to expect that the authorities would take all reasonable steps to ensure that, following his release, he was in a position to maintain stability in his mental health. That he was unable to do so meant that this offending was, in an important sense, involuntary. It also had the consequence that a brave policemen was unnecessarily exposed to grave danger.”
Justice Maxwell said a lower sentence was called for and Aggelidis was re-sentenced to three years’ jail with a non-parole period of 18 months.