AFTER 561 days in prison, Robert Jeffrey has been acquitted of charges relating to a Ballarat North home invasion in which a man almost died.
A jury took less than four hours to decide Jeffrey’s fate, finding him not guilty of aggravated burglary, intentionally causing serious injury and theft.
They did however find him guilty of a single charge of criminal damage, relating to an incident in the early hours of March 6 last year.
The County Court in Ballarat heard Jeffrey, 51, and about 10 others gathered outside Leanne Lawson and Robert Linane’s home that night, making threats and smashing windows.
Later four men — not Jeffrey — entered the couple’s home and Mr Linane was bashed, suffering head injuries so severe he had to be airlifted to The Alfred hospital.
Mr Linane spent more than three months in hospital, and had to have part of his skull removed to allow for swelling of his brain.
During the trial a doctor gave evidence saying that without medical treatment Mr Linane would have died.
Jeffrey and his wife and daughters, who were present during much of the trial, were silent but visibly relieved upon the verdict being given.
Afterwards they were seen hugging, smiling and laughing.
During the 11-day trial, Jeffrey’s defence argued the prosecution had accused the wrong man, and that Ms Lawson’s son actually committed the assault.
Defence lawyer Michael Pena-Rees accused Ms Lawson of lying in her evidence in order to protect her son.
Following the verdict, Judge Tony Howard dismissed the jury and thanked them.
He then went about sentencing Jeffrey over the criminal damage charge.
“Certainly being part of an angry mob in the early hours of the morning is totally unacceptable conduct,” Judge Howard said.
“On behalf of the community I denounce your conduct.”
Mr Pena-Rees said Jeffrey and his partner had lost their family home after he was taken into custody on March 7 last year and they were unable to meet mortgage repayments.
The court heard Jeffrey made six unsuccessful bail applications leading up to the trial.
Mr Pena-Rees then urged the court to release his client, to which Judge Howard agreed.
Jeffrey was eventually sentenced to 30 days in prison and taking into account 561 days already served, he was released from custody.
Mr Pena-Rees and Jeffrey both declined an interview request from The Courier.