THEY should have been enjoying a meal together as a family, but one small disagreement over a bar stool in the Ginger Mule left a 57-year-old man with injuries that will affect him for the rest of his life.
The man who hit him with that bar stool, Duncan Etwell, 37, yesterday pleaded guilty in the Rockhampton District Court to causing grievous bodily harm.
The victim was injured so severely in the 2012 incident that he still requires bi-monthly eye injections.
Crown prosecutor Alexandra Baker told the court the man needed metal plates inserted after he sustained fractures to his eye socket, cheek bone and nasal bone, and additional surgery in 2013 when his eyelashes started to grow inward as a result of his injuries.
The victim, a Bundaberg resident visiting Rockhampton for the races on June 23, had made his way to the Ginger Mule for a meal with his family.
The court heard that in a crowded venue, seating was minimal so he borrowed a bar stool from a neighbouring table, before it was "taken back".
When the victim went to retrieve it, he was struck in the back of the head by an unknown man.
Once he turned, the court heard he saw Duncan Etwell standing there with a friend.
Etwell began punching the man in the face, and continued to hit the victim while he was on the ground, only stopping when security removed him from the venue.
Despite this, Etwell painted the picture of a remorseful man yesterday.
His defence solicitor, Michael McMillan, said Etwell had sold two investment properties in order to give the victim around $125,000 in compensation to ease his suffering.
"It has not been an attempt to buy his way out of prosecution or punishment," Mr McMillan said. "It displays how genuine he is in his remorse."
The court heard Etwell had also developed PTSD-like symptoms, was deeply depressed, stressed and unable to function.
Etwell is currently a general manager in the explosives, engineering and supply field of a large explosives company. Mr McMillan said he would lose his explosives licence due to the conviction yesterday.
In addressing his statement to the court, Etwell said the day was the "lowest point" of his life.
"I have worked tirelessly to ensure he is compensated," he said, fighting back tears. "I have felt so much pain since this event… I have trouble sleeping, functioning… I will work tirelessly in this community to make up for my mistakes."
In delivering the final sentence, Judge Ian Dearden said he had no trouble accepting that Etwell was remorseful, but still did not understand why such a minor conflict ended in a serious assault.
When taking into account the compensation payments, Judge Dearden described the amount as "above and beyond" what the court had seen in "99%" of cases.
Judge Dearden sentenced Etwell to two and a half years in prison, wholly suspended, for an operational period of three years.
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