A man who was suffering from a drug-induced psychosis when he tried to kidnap a toddler, just minutes after being released on bail from a nearby police station, has been jailed for more than four years.
But with time already served, Michael Rawson could be back in the community in 17 months if he makes parole.
Rawson, 41, was high on ice and still in possession of his bail documents when he spotted the boy and his father at the Preston library in Melbourne’s north in November 2019, only metres from the police station he had just left.
Dramatic footage released by Victoria’s County Court shows Rawson, clad in a black dressing gown and a Hawthorn AFL jumper, snatching the two-year-old and pummelling his father into the ground.
In the moments before he was attacked, the boy’s father, who cannot be named, desperately said: “Don’t take the child.”
On Tuesday, Rawson wept and used his prison greens to wipe away his tears as Judge Felicity Hampel sentenced him to serve four-and-a-half years in jail for his “harrowing” crimes.
“What happened is every parent’s nightmare,” the judge said.
“You grabbed the child and wrestled him from his father as he desperately tried to protect him and keep him safe.
“To see the tenderness with which the father held and stroked his child after you ran away just brings home how terrifying it must have been.”
Attacker had been bailed from police station 150 metres away
In November 2019, Rawson was found in the street high on ice and trying to break into cars.
He was taken back to the Preston police station, where he was charged and bailed, and afterwards put into a taxi.
But the cab had travelled just 150 metres when Rawson got out and made his way towards a boy and his father.
“You ran towards them and said, ‘I’ll help you down’,” the judge said.
“The man told you not to touch his child.
“You grabbed the child with both hands and pulled him away.”
The court heard Rawson, who had been awake for days, thought the child was his own and wanted to give it a hug.
“While the child you tried to kidnap was a boy, you said he looked like your youngest daughter,” the judge said.
Chilling footage shows the boy’s father desperately trying to hold onto his son before Rawson pushed him to the ground and pummelled the back of his head, forcing him to let go.
Rawson then seized the boy and ran, but not before being tackled by a bystander who managed to grab hold of his dressing gown.
He escaped but was later found hiding in a garden.
Victims attacked in what should have been ‘a safe place’
Victoria’s County Court heard Rawson, who has since written letters of apology to his victims, was probably in the grips of a drug-induced “psychotic state” that gave him delusions.
But Judge Hampel said that would have been little comfort to them.
“It was a terrifying experience for them and remains so, whether or not the father now knows that you had an impaired capacity to make reasoned judgments,” the judge said.
She said both victims had lost their sense of safety and security.
“This was their neighbourhood. It was a safe place for them and clearly a time of family joy,” she said.
Rawson turned to drugs after the breakdown of his marriage.
Also on Tuesday, he was convicted for assaulting and resisting a police officer after he was taken to hospital that night.
Rawson will have to serve at least two years and three months in prison before he is eligible for parole.