‘She did not deserve this’: Boy sentenced over woman’s concrete block death
Warning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers: This article contains the name and image of a person who has died.
The family of a woman fatally struck with a concrete block have broken down in court as the boy responsible for her death was sentenced to five years detention.
Abuse and screams of anguish came from Alison Miller, in particular, who lost her sister Diane in the incident at Karawara’s Waterford Shopping Centre on November 29.
She cried, dropped to the floor, pounded her fist and repeatedly yelled “she did not deserve this” as other family members tried to console her.
The court’s decision means the boy responsible could be out on supervised release in 26 months, backdated to his arrest on November 30.
The 17-year-old, who can’t be named for legal reasons, previously pleaded guilty to a downgraded charge of manslaughter after Diane Miller, 30, was hit by the 1.9kg concrete block, about the size of a tissue box, as she sat in the passenger seat of a car at the shopping centre just south of the Perth CBD.
The boy had thrown the block following a confrontation between Ms Miller’s partner Phillip Edmonds and the boy and his teenage friends, sparked by Mr Edmonds believing one of the group had thrown something at his vehicle.
As Mr Edmonds drove from the centre with a 20-weeks pregnant Ms Miller sitting in the passenger seat, she was struck in the head with the block through the open car window.
It caused her catastrophic head injuries, and she and her unborn child died in Royal Perth Hospital three days later.
In sentencing on Friday, Perth Children’s Court Judge Hylton Quail said the incident was a “triple tragedy”.
“You took (Diane Miller’s) life, you deprived baby Lloyd (her toddler son) of a mother and you stopped her baby being born into a life with his family,” Judge Quail said.
“I want to make it clear you were not acting in self-defence or in defence of another. Ms Miller was a blameless and innocent victim in a senseless and shameful act.
“I’m satisfied you (threw the block) deliberately to hit Mr Edmonds’ car … you did not intend to hit anyone.
“You did not think you might hurt anyone in the car when you threw the rock, but you did know Mr Edmonds, Ms Miller, and a child were in the car.
“Most people would stop themselves throwing a rock in that circumstance … but you are not most people.”
Judge Quail acknowledged the boy has impaired cognitive function due to brain damage caused by foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), which would have affected his decision making ability in hurling the projectile.
He sentenced the boy to five years detention but granted him the chance for supervised release after having served 26 months, backdated to his arrest.
That means he could be back in the community in under two years.
Judge Quail also took into account the boy’s early guilty plea, awarding him a discount of 20 per cent to his sentence as allowed under legislation.
As he’s on the cusp of adulthood, the boy was given the option of remaining in Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre or being sent to an adult prison to serve the remainder of his time.
Judge Quail noted there were ongoing problems with staffing at Banksia Hill that had resulted in the boy being held unlawfully for up to 23 hours in lockdown – unable to leave his cell.
“The conditions there have been very bad, well documented by the court,” Judge Quail said. “About 45 days of the 150 you have been there, one-third of that time you have been locked in your cell for more than 20 hours at a time, which is unlawful.”
He went on to tell the boy the process to be moved to an adult facility if he changed his mind was a simple court application, although it’s understood no one 18 years old or over has ever made that application in WA.
Outside court, Ms Miller’s family did not hold back, expressing their disappointment in the sentence.
“F–kin’ sick to my guts,” her brother Malcolm Clifton said. “(The boy] knew what he was doing … everyone knows, when you pick up a weapon they intend to use the f–kin’ thing.”
“When my sister was dead I put my head on her belly and I could still hear baby Leroy’s heartbeat,” said a tearful Alison, clinging to a large framed picture of Diane and her first son Lloyd.
It was also revealed in court on Friday that a member of Ms Miller’s family had made a threatening gesture to the boy as they left the courtroom following Thursday’s proceedings.
Ms Miller’s family and supporters have been in court on both days of proceedings, some wearing purple shirts bearing a photo of Diane.