News State Victoria News Judge upholds magistrate’s decision not to jail man who attacked paramedics

Judge upholds magistrate’s decision not to jail man who attacked paramedics

James Haberfield was sentenced in August to an 18-month community corrections order for attacking two paramedics in Melbourne. Photo: ABC News/Julian Smith
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A judge has upheld a decision not to jail a Melbourne man who attacked two Victorian paramedics while in a “psychotic state” after taking a cocktail of drugs at a festival.

James Haberfield, 22, was sentenced to an 18-month community corrections order in August, thereby avoiding a minimum six-month jail term imposed under recently introduced laws for those who attack emergency workers.

Prosecutors appealed the decision on the grounds that “it was not open to the Magistrate to impose any sentence other than a custodial sentence” as required under the Sentencing Act.

Today, County Court Judge Andrew Tinney refused to jail Haberfield after finding two special reasons applied to his case, including that Haberfield’s mental impairment at the time of the offence was not solely due to his drug-taking but was also linked to underlying schizophrenia.

The case was the first test of the changes, which came into effect in October 2018.

Judge Tinney extended Haberfield’s original mandatory treatment, monitoring and community corrections orders for an additional four months.

During sentencing, Judge Tinney told Haberfield he had avoided jail “by the skin of your teeth”.

The court heard Haberfield was “behaving like a maniac” when he punched a paramedic in the face and put her in a headlock, before attacking a second paramedic, while in a state of drug-induced “acute psychosis”.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court previously heard Haberfield went missing in an “acutely psychotic state” after the Rainbow Serpent alternative music and arts festival, during which he had consumed “a cocktail of drugs” including ice, MDMA and ketamine.

The university student knocked on the door of a Coburg home, walked inside and terrified the residents, who were unknown to him.

When the ambulance arrived to collect him, Haberfield punched the paramedic in the face, put her in a headlock and squeezed and pinned her to the rear corner of the ambulance.

Fellow paramedic Sam Smith avoided Haberfield’s punches, pressed the vehicle’s duress button and sedated the young man.

More to come.