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Judgment handed down in DPP v Browning

04 July 2016

The Court of Appeal today allowed an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions against the sentence imposed upon the respondent, Brian Robert Browning, for the murder of his wife, Catherine Elizabeth Browning.

The Court accepted the Director’s contention that the sentence of 18 years’ imprisonment with a 14 year non-parole period was manifestly inadequate.

The respondent and his wife were separating. They continued to live together in the family home but slept in different bedrooms. In the early hours of Thursday, 19 December 2013, the respondent arose from bed. He went to the kitchen and took possession of a knife. He then entered the bedroom in which his wife was sleeping and stabbed her 15 times to her chest, neck and throat. One of the couple’s adult daughters was in the house, and was exposed to the aftermath.

The Court noted that the respondent, having pleaded not guilty, could receive no benefit from the utilitarian value ordinarily associated with a plea of guilty. Moreover, the Court had regard to the sentencing judge’s view that the respondent’s remorse was not ‘of a significant level’.

The mitigating factors present included the psychological effects of violence inflicted upon him as a child by his father and his deteriorating mental state in the lead up to his offending. He had not been sleeping well. He had taken sleeping tablets called ‘Restavit’, containing a substance known as doxylamine, on the evening in question which the evidence indicated could cause behaviour which was out of character.

The respondent had no previous history of violence. His prospects of rehabilitation were said to be good, and he had the on-going support of his two daughters.

The Court found that given the nature of the offence and the various aggravating features present in this case, and notwithstanding the various mitigatory factors to which it had regard, the sentence should not be permitted to stand.

The respondent was re-sentenced to 21 years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 16 years.

NOTE: This summary is necessarily incomplete. It is not intended as a substitute for the Court’s reasons or to be used in any later consideration of the Court’s reasons. The only authoritative pronouncement of the Court’s reasons and conclusions is that contained in the published reasons for judgment.

Read the full judgment on Austlii (External link)

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