Stephen John Howes is not allowed to contact his own mother. A court order prevents him from doing so. But if he could give her a call, he says he would tell her he's sorry - "deeply sorry".
"I can't believe what I've done," Howes told the Mercury. "I love her very much and miss her."
The 54-year-old fronted Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday to face charges stemming from February 12 last year, when he hit his elderly mother across the face in an ugly stoush at the family's Kanahooka home.
The pair had a verbal argument before Howes struck her across the face. She fell to the ground and was left with a bruise and a slight bump to her temple. Later she would tell police that Howes, out of work due to an injury and frustrated at having recently lost his license due to unpaid fines, had become increasingly agitated, aggressive and abusive since moving back into the family home about eight months earlier.
The court heard Howes had moved home partly to help care for his sick father.
"His father in fact died shortly after this incident," Howes' lawyer, Danny Lagapodis, told the court. "Because of the circumstances surrounding the incident, police becoming involved, he could not turn up to his father's funeral. In fact, to this day he doesn't even know where his father's buried.
"He tells me he had a loving relationship with both of his parents for a long, long time. He dearly wants to contact his mother, but there's an AVO precluding him."
The 54-year-old was arrested on March 21 last year.
The court heard he was once a "very industrious" man who had worked as a plasterer and metal worker. Due to degenerative changes in his spine, he had been unable to work for the past nine years and was on a disability support pension.
Mr Lagapodis told the court Howes' hit was "reactive". "He had lost his license, he was in pain. No license, no residence to go to, and he was frustrated. That doesn't excuse his conduct and no excuse can be made for what he did, but there was no malice or vindictiveness to his mother ... He is absolutely sincere and remorseful."
He had done upaid work to pay off unrelated fines and was now eligible for a license.
Magistrate Holly Kemp noted the work was a sign of Howes' positive contribution to the community, but said his offending was "a serious act of domestic violence".
He was placed on a nine-month community corrections order.