TRIAL IN REVIEW: The Harley Hicks case day by day
VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS...
Zayden's mother tells of her heartache: Casey Veal's victim impact statement read by Crown prosecutor Michele Williams in the Supreme Court.
Zayden's father tells of his pain: James Whitting's victim impact statement read in the Supreme Court.
Zayden's grandparents share their heartache in a statement read in the Supreme Court.
THE Crown has called for a life sentence for the man found guilty of the “evil killing’’ of baby Zayden Veal-Whitting.
Ten-month-old Zayden was found bludgeoned to death in his cot by his mother in their Long Gully home on June 15, 2012.
A Supreme Court jury last month found Harley Hicks, 21, of Long Gully, guilty of murdering Zayden with a hand-made baton.
Hicks was out committing a series of burglaries in the Long Gully area overnight on June 14/15, 2012, when he entered Zayden’s Eaglehawk Road home and struck him repeatedly with a baton made of copper wire and electrical tape.
During a plea hearing in the Supreme Court in Bendigo, Crown prosecutor Michele Williams said the “cold, calculated killing of a baby’’ in this case was not an act of revenge or self-defence, it was “an evil killing without any real, rational explanation’’.
“We say in the circumstances here … the nature and gravity of the prisoner's crimes are extreme,’’ she said.
“We say this murder may be categorised as a callous murder of an innocent, defenceless baby.
“This killing falls within the worst case category of murders and as such we call for a life sentence.’’
Ms Williams said the fact Zayden sustained at least 25 injuries to his face, eight to his scalp and fractures to his clavicle and rib, and that a weapon was used, suggest “the prisoner was intending to kill Zayden as opposed to cause him really serious injury’’.
“The circumstances in general … of the killing of 10-month-old Zayden we say are such that would shock the conscience of ordinary right minded people,’’ Ms Williams said.
Ms Williams asked Justice Stephen Kaye to consider a number of aggravating features, including the fact the person murdered was an innocent, sleeping baby who was no threat to Hicks.
“We went to the jury on motive, if there was one, to try and make some sense of this crime,’’ she said.
“When you combine it with the taking out of the baby monitor and so on, was to protect himself, to stop himself from being apprehended, but if you consider what he did, it's an extreme, extreme way to respond to any thought of self-preservation to react in such a violent way. It almost has no explanation in some respects.
“It's just such an extraordinary act of violence in the face of a - if it is a perceived or a perception that he might get caught, but he could have chosen to walk out the front door.’’
Justice Kaye agreed, saying not only was the baby innocent, but “helpless … and harmless’’.
"You couldn't argue with the proposition this case falls squarely into the most serious cases of murder,'' he said.
He said the fact Hicks had earlier fled another property and was chased on foot by a man, without turning on him, but then violently attacked a child beggared belief.
“What adds, in a sense, to the horror of this crime … is that when he was chased at the other premises, and nearly caught, bare feet and everything, he'd lost his shoes, he didn't produce it then,’’ Justice Kaye said.
“And I don't criticise him for that, I think we're very grateful he didn't, but not to have produced it when he himself was confronted and then to have turned the use of it so savagely and cruelly on a baby, it just seems to add to the whole horror of the whole thing.”
Ms Williams said that Hicks left home that night carrying a weapon, and the crime was committed in the “sanctity of Zayden's home whilst his parents and older brother were sleeping’’ were also aggravating circumstance that should be considered in sentencing.
“For parents to have a child murdered in such circumstances whilst they are asleep and whilst he is asleep is simply just extraordinary,’’ she said.
“We say that the motive gleaned was to silence Zayden so as to avoid being caught and apprehended, so therefore as much as we're able to say, or give any sense of this act or acts, it was one of self-preservation. We say it was a calculated crime … because it did, and must have, required some thought in the sense of unplugging the baby monitor and then the evidence shows that after the infliction of the multiple blows with the baton that the baby blanket was placed back over Zayden up to his nose.
“What it means is that the horror of what he has done, he is still capable of then acting in a way that is self-interested, self-motivated, and it's a concerning aspect of this crime.’’
Ms Williams said a further aggravating feature was a lie Hicks gave police to put up a false killer.
Hicks told police he was with another man on the night of Zayden’s death, resulting in nine police officers arresting that man on the suspicion of murder.
The man was exonerated when police found what Justice Kaye described as an “iron clad alibi’’ for him.
“What it means is that the horror of what he has done, he is still capable of then acting in a way that is self-interested, self-motivated, and it's a concerning aspect of this crime,’’ Ms Williams said.
“That blaming of the innocent person, or the soft target, was - the ability to keep lying about it and to keep - in the fact of being questioned at length by the police, the ability to keep adding to that lie, Your Honour, shows, in my submission, again this self-preservation, self-interest, trying to protect himself, and the ability to do so.
“So intelligent enough to be able to follow through and maintain that story
“Likewise … at trial he sought to blame his twin brother.
“The prisoner has demonstrated no remorse and has in fact sought to blame others for his horrendous crimes.’’
The court heard Hicks had a long criminal history, which started at the age of 14, and included thefts, criminal damage, aggravated burglary and armed robbery. Ms Williams said Hicks had a history of non-compliance and a complete disregard for the various and many institutions and agencies who sought to assist him.
Hicks’ history also includes years of repeated drug abuse, including cannabis, heroin, ecstasy, alcohol and methamphetamine, commonly known as ice.
Ms Williams quotes a doctor’s report, which stated Hicks had "propensity to inflict damage on himself and others and his defiance of the law are of concern" and told the court his prospects for rehabilitation were bleak.
“So what we glean from that is he's indicating that these things are problematic, they're concerning,’’ she said.
“He goes on to say, ‘there has also been some highly concerning behaviour, including arson and cruelty to animals.
“A proper analysis of the criminal record, together with the summaries of those matters, we're able to glean an escalation in offending in terms of seriousness and violence, in particular the last one.
“He committed these offences two months after being placed on a Community Corrections Order for the armed robbery, and he's had numerous orders that have incorporated treatment for drug and alcohol issues.’’
Defence counsel David Hallowes said he not been instructed by Hicks as to how or why the crime was committed, and there was no “adjective or adjectives that the defence could properly put to describe what took place, the grief that caused’’.
“Anything that I put on behalf of Harley Hicks is not put seeking to resile from the gravity and seriousness of the offending,’’ he said.
“The conduct was egregious and … largely inexplicable.’’
“It's put that Your Honour should find that there was no premeditation in the sense that Your Honour shouldn't make a finding that there was any intent prior to the entry of Harley Hicks into that room to commit violence, but something must have happened whilst he was in that room for him to do the horrendous things he did,’’ Mr Hallowes said.
Mr Hallowes said Justice Kaye should consider imposing a minimum term on Hicks’ imprisonment, and take into account that while there were issues about Hicks’ prior offending, he was not someone who engaged regularly in violence.
He said Hicks had also told police he had used ice the night he killed Zayden, “which must have contributed to his behaviour’’.
Justice Kaye said there was no evidence as to the effect of ice on Hicks at the time, and he was able to act rationally both before and after killing Zayden.
“He was systematic in the way he committed all the burglaries,’’ Justice Kaye said.
“He stuck to a particular modus operandi he did it with this offence. It was methodical, he withdrew when he couldn't get into premises, and then he went up the street and thought well it's a bit hot for me to find my way home on my own. He got someone to drive him home and collected his loot on the way home.’’
Mr Hallowes told the court Hicks had a dysfunctional upbringing and dysfunctional schooling and was troubled with mental health issues.
He asked Justice Kaye to consider Hicks’ age, saying “he was young at the time of the offending and he is still young now’’.
In asking for a life sentence, the crown asked Justice Kaye to compare Hicks to Robert Farquharson and Arthur Freeman, both of whom killed their children.
Ms Williams said while child killings which were acts of revenge against a partner were “abhorrent,’’ they had explanation.
“There is, whether we like it or not, an explanation,’’ she said.
“But this is different and in some ways maybe worse, because it's the cold, calculated killing of a baby, if you like, in a vacuum.
"We do maintain the submission for a life sentence and we do say that it is, however, appropriate for Your Honour to impose a minimum term.’’
UPDATE 12.25PM: Justice Stephen Kaye has told the plea hearing 'you couldn't argue with the proposition this case falls squarely into the most serious cases of murder'.
EARLIER: The Crown has called for a life sentence for Harley Hicks.
Hicks is facing a plea hearing in the Supreme Court today after being found guilty of the murder of baby Zayden Veal-Whitting at his Long Gully home on June 15, 2012.
Zayden was found bludgeoned to death and laying in a pool of blood in his cot by his mother.
Crown prosecutor Michele Williams told the court today that the nature and gravity of the crime were extreme.
She said a life sentence was the most appropriate sentence for the callous murder of an innocent and defenceless baby with severe force.
''It is an evil killing without any real rational explanation,'' she said.