Officer sentenced for common assault

WAGGA LOCAL COURT

A RIVERINA police officer yesterday avoided conviction for a violent assault, but his future in the force is uncertain.

Lee Michael McCarthy, 51, was sentenced in Wagga Local Court after pleading guilty in Albury Local Court on April 16 to common assault.

The former Howlong senior constable - now stationed in Albury - admitted to pushing Howlong man Paul Wraith in the chest before punching him in the mouth once and then 10 times in the left rib area on August 12 last year.

McCarthy had faced a more serious charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, but it was withdrawn when he pleaded guilty to the lesser offence last month.

Agreed facts tendered to the Albury court said McCarthy assaulted Mr Wraith in a laneway between the Howlong Hotel's beer garden and a funeral parlour.

Called to the hotel on a report of a brawl late in the afternoon, McCarthy believed Mr Wraith was urinating in the laneway and told him to leave the area.

After an exchange of words, McCarthy pushed Mr Wraith before letting fly with a barrage of punches.

In his sentencing submission yesterday, Director of Public Prosecutions representative Christian Hearn called on magistrate Michael Antrum to record a conviction against McCarthy, saying a message of general deterrence had to be sent to denounce McCarthy's conduct.

He said Mr Wraith had posed no threat to McCarthy, who was an experienced police officer (15 years).

"The assault was not a momentary lapse of judgment; it continued for some time," Mr Hearn said.

He said after the push, the experienced officer had time to reflect on his conduct and stop the assault, but instead launched into a second and more serious act of violence.

In his submission, McCarthy's barrister Ray Hood produced a report from one of NSW's leading forensic psychiatrists, Dr Bruce Westmore.

Dr Westmore found McCarthy was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder at the time of the assault as well as the stress of his wife undergoing cancer treatment.

Mr Hood said it was clear all the stresses had a cumulative effect on McCarthy, who before this incident had an unblemished record.

In calling for McCarthy to be placed on a good behaviour bond under Section 10 (1) (b) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act, with no conviction, Mr Hood said McCarthy had already suffered punishment for his crime by a big cut in earnings and media coverage of the case.

"He comes to court late in his working life and is entitled to leniency," Mr Hood said.

Mr Hood also pointed out the Police Force could take disciplinary action against McCarthy.

"The (court) result will be looked at by the commissioner and this man may well find himself without employment at 51 very shortly."

In placing McCarthy on a two-year Section 10 bond, Mr Antrum weighed up the aggravating features that actual violence was used in the assault and that McCarthy was in a position of authority against the mitigating factors that McCarthy had no prior convictions and the psychiatric findings of Dr Westmore.

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