Echuca arsonist avoids more jail time for assault, damage

An Echuca man, who was last week sentenced for burning his best friend’s house to the ground, has avoided having extra time added to his jail term despite waging a “persistent vendetta” against the victim in the 12 months following the arson.

Christopher Abbott, 23, faced Bendigo Magistrates Court yesterday on a series of charges including multiple counts of criminal damage and assault.

The main victim was his friend of 15 years who had raised the ire of Abbott when he had a “brief fling” with his ex-partner.

Leading Senior Constable Dave Somerton said Abbott drove to Tongala on June 28 last year to confront the victim and found him at the local pub.

“The accused approached him with a metal baseball bat and the victim went inside, fearing he would be assaulted,” Leading Senior Constable Somerton said.

“The accused struck the victim’s ute in a fit of rage, breaking windows, lights and panels.”

He said Abbott, “aggressive and out of control”, then got in his car and rammed the ute twice.

“He did it with such force the wheels lifted up and struck the verandah pole of the hotel,” he said.

“The publican thought it would be rammed through the hotel. There were a number of people inside having lunch at the time.”

The court heard that three months later the same victim was sitting in his car in his driveway when he saw Abbott approaching with a pinch bar and he tried to drive off.

“The accused ran after him and yelled at him,” Leading Senior Constable Somerton said.

“He swung the bar at the window and shattered the glass. The victim received a cut and got glass in his eye.”

The court was told Abbott also faced charges of assaulting his partner, stealing archery equipment from Echuca College and driving while under the influence of methamphetamine and cannabis.

Abbott’s defence counsel Kate Youngson said her client’s “fairly heavy drug habit” was the root cause of his offending.

“His relationship broke down due to drug use. His best friend moved in on his partner and they had a brief fling. This angered my client,” Ms Youngson said.

Abbott is serving a 28-month sentence for arson and Ms Youngson said any additional time would be “crushing” for her client and detrimental to his rehabilitation.

But Leading Senior Constable Somerton said a cumulative term was needed to address Abbott’s “persistent vendetta” against the victim.

“He has been the subject of offending from the accused over a substantial period of time,” he said.

Magistrate Richard Wright sentenced Abbott to one year and eight months prison but made the sentence concurrent with the one already being served, agreeing with Ms Youngson that any more jail time would be crushing.

The decision was met with  smiles and a thumbs up from Abbott and his family.

Christopher Abbott

Christopher Abbott