A Leumeah man has been jailed for a minimum 12 months over a violent assault outside the Illawarra Steelers Club that left a Vietnamese man with extensive fractures to his skull.
Simon Kirpichikov pleaded guilty in Wollongong District Court to a single charge of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm after admitting he got into a fight with Hoai Bao Tran in a laneway beside the club in the early hours of March 11 last year.
Tran’s injuries included two major skull fractures, which prosecutors claim he received when Kirpichikov stomped on his head.
Kirpichikov denied stomping on Tran’s head, instead arguing the Vietnamese cook fractured his skull as a result of hitting his head when he fell to the ground after being punched by Kirpichikov.
After two days of evidence, Judge Andrew Haesler yesterday found Kirpichikov had stomped on Tran’s head, but could not establish whether or not that single action had been responsible for the skull fracture.
Tran was unconscious for three to five minutes after the stomp.
He was taken to Wollongong Hospital for treatment.
The court heard Tran had suffered lasting effects from the assault, including memory loss and persistent headaches, and was unlikely to fully recover from his injuries, which had left him unable to work.
Kirpichikov told the court he had never intended to fight Tran that evening and had been ready to leave the club moments after he complained to staff about Tran threatening him with a knife.
However, Judge Haesler found while the fight was not pre-planned, both men had entered into it freely, and Kirpichikov must have been aware that Tran wanted to continue their dispute ‘‘outside’’, as he had indicated earlier in the club.
Judge Haesler said evidence from Kirpichikov that he was ‘‘lured’’ down the alleyway by Tran’s business partner, Ngoc Vo, was ‘‘unconvincing’’, as was his suggestion Mr Vo had slapped him once they were near the back of the club.
Judge Haesler also largely rejected Kirpichikov’s claims he had suffered a degree of amnesia and could not remember much of the night, including stomping on Tran.
Kirpichikov’s barrister, Bart Vasic, urged Judge Haesler to spare his client time behind bars, instead asking him to consider giving Kirpichikov a suspended prison sentence or place him on an intensive correction order.
He noted Kirpichikov had virtually no criminal record, was a man of prior good character and had been ‘‘significantly provoked’’ by Tran, who had threatened him with the knife and assaulted him with a metal pole during the melee.
(Tran was also charged as a result of the fight. He was placed on a bond after pleading guilty to a charge of affray.)
Mr Vasic tendered references to the court from Kirpichikov’s friends, family and former employees, all of whom described the 28-year-old as a ‘‘well mannered’’, ‘‘calm’’ and ‘‘gentle’’ person.
However, Crown prosecutor David Williams argued the nature of the assault coupled with Tran’s significant injuries meant no penalty other than full-time jail was appropriate punishment for Kirpichikov.
Judge Haesler agreed, sentencing Kirpichikov to a maximum of two years and nine months behind bars, with a non-parole period of one year.
He will be eligible for release on parole in December next year.