A hot-tempered Campbelltown tradie who hit an elderly man at a construction site in Bulli, leaving him fighting for life in hospital, has been sentenced to 20 months' jail.
Judge Chris O'Brien described the case as "sad and tragic" during a sentencing hearing in Wollongong District Court on Thursday, saying "two lives, one young, one not so young" hab been ruined in what was essentially a "dispute over parking on a suburban street".
The court heard Alasdair Papalii became involved in an argument with the 76-year-old victim on Hospital Road, near the Bulli Aged Care Centre construction site, about 7am on May 1 after Papalii moved a garbage bin so he and other workers could find a place to park.
The dispute became increasingly heated, with the victim allegedly making racial remarks towards Papalii and his colleagues including telling them to "go back to your own country" and calling them "black shits".
Papalii, who admitted he became angry at the racial taunts, hit the victim in the right side of his face with the back of his closed fist.
The hit was described by a witness as a quick "cheek jab".
The victim fell slowly to the ground, landing in a garden bed, at which time he suffered a stroke.
Papalii's brother went to check on the victim before asking a neighbour to contact paramedics.
The victim was taken to Wollongong Hospital then transferred to Prince of Wales Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery, including having stents placed in his carotid artery.
The man's treating doctor prepared a statement for the court in which he confirmed the man had suffered an "ischemic stroke" following "acute trauma".
He now lives in a nursing home and needs help performing day-to-day tasks, with the court hearing he can no longer shower himself, get dressed and requires assistance in eating and using the bathroom.
Papalii handed himself into Campbelltown Police Station 24 hours after the incident. He was charged but later released on bail.
He pleaded guilty to recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm in May.
In Thursday's sentence hearing, Papalii told the court he was deeply remorseful for his "split second decision" that day which resulted in the victim's lasting injuries.
"I'm full of regret," he said.
"I've been going to church, thinking about it and praying for him.
'I know I'm short tempered, I know it's an issue. I'm going to classes to hopefully [get] better."
Defence lawyer Elizabeth Parkes asked Judge O'Brien to spare Papalii a custodial sentence and instead impose a community-based intensive corrections order.
However, Judge O'Brien was scathing of Papalii's behaviour that day and found the only appropriate sentence was full-time jail.
"I'm prepared to accept there was some level of racial overtone towards the offender and his colleagues...but provocation is no excuse for assault," he said.
"The offender's response was a real and significant overreaction to what was said. It was impulsive, unplanned and the result of him losing his temper."
He said there could be no doubt the victim had suffered very serious injuries, for which Papalii was "totally responsible" through his "completely unnecessary, violent conduct".
Judge O'Brien sentenced Papalii to an overall prison term of two years and nine months, with a 20-month non-parole period, prompting Papalii's mother to break down in tears in the courtroom.
Papalii will be released from custody in May 2022.