A Lake Illawarra retiree attacked after he tried to photograph three men illegally riding dirt bikes in Blackbutt Reserve told police he thought he was going to die.
The man was repeatedly hit by a tree branch during the March 26 incident, leaving him bleeding heavily from cuts to his head and legs.
One of his attackers, Harley Mitchell, narrowly avoided jail in Wollongong Local Court on Friday, with Magistrate Michael Stoddart describing his actions as “disgraceful”.
“People that behave in that manner deserve to be locked up like an animal,” he said, adding the only reason he wasn’t imposing a full time jail sentence was because Mitchell had played a lesser role in the attack.
The court heard the victim had made multiple reports to police about illegal motorbike activity in the reserve in recent months and had been told to try and get photographic evidence of the offenders.
He told police when he heard revving engines around 5.30 that afternoon he grabbed a camera and went out to the track.
When Mitchell and his two accomplices spotted the victim, they immediately dropped their bikes and ran towards him, yelling out “you c—t, let’s get the camera”.
One of the co-offenders then grabbed a branch from nearby bushland and used it to hit the victim multiple times in the head and body.
The man told police he feared for his life and believed the “vicious” men were going to kill him.
Dazed and in pain, the victim managed to get back to his house and contact police.
He was taken to hospital where he received stitches to a wound above his left eye.
Mitchell was arrested two days later.
He pleaded guilty to charges of affray and driving an unregistered vehicle without a licence.
Magistrate Stoddart handed Mitchell an eight-month suspended prison sentence, warning him against committing any further offences while on the bond.
“If this is how you want to behave you will be spending your life locked up,” he said.