Rocks, petrol bombs, arson: Man punished over riot

 

A MAN has been sentenced to jail for his role in a major Aurukun riot in January that left a multimillion-dollar damage bill and people fleeing for safety.

The man, who is not named for legal reasons, appeared via video link in Cairns Supreme Court on Wednesday pleading guilty to one count of aggravated riot and six counts of arson.

The court heard the man was part of 100-200 people in the riot on January 1-2 after a family member was allegedly murdered.

The man threw rocks and petrol bombs, smashed properties and set mattresses alight.

Houses burn during riots in Aurukun on January 1. Simmering clan tensions erupted after the alleged murder of a man. PICTURE: Supplied
Houses burn during riots in Aurukun on January 1. Simmering clan tensions erupted after the alleged murder of a man. PICTURE: Supplied

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At the time, he was on two probation orders for similar offending in the past, including public nuisance, wilful damage and obstructing police.

The court heard that the estimated cost of damages by the man and 21 other co-accused, who are still before the court, to be $2.8m. Three houses were completely destroyed and some community members were injured.

The estimated costs to the damaged and destroyed houses in Aurukun during the January 1–2 riot is $2.8 million. PICTURE: Supplied
The estimated costs to the damaged and destroyed houses in Aurukun during the January 1–2 riot is $2.8 million. PICTURE: Supplied

Judge Tracy Fantin sentenced the man to a maximum of 20 months. She said the man's offending had a number of "terrible consequences" that included about 300 people fleeing for safety and long-term effects in the community.

"The offending provokes a justifiable sense of community outrage," she said.

"Mob conduct of this kind cannot be tolerated in a civilised community."

She also said that the riot was "not a legitimate way of expressing the family's grief and outrage over the killing of one of their members".

Judge Fantin said she also considered the man's subjective circumstances, which included his exposure to violence being normalised in the regional town as shown by an anthropology report tendered to the court.

They also included community dynamics, interfamilial conflicts, the family member's death and substance abuse.

Judge Fantin said the man had good prospects of rehabilitation and showed insight into his offending.

She recorded a conviction for only the riot offence and resentenced him to the probation orders he breached.

Having been in detention for about eight months, he will be eligible for release in October after serving 10 months.

Originally published as Rocks, petrol bombs, arson: Man punished over riot


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