10 April, 2010

A surprise attack

Sun was born in South Korea in 1979. His parents split up when he was very young, and although his father moved to Australia, he remained in Korea with his mother and his younger brother. Sadly, she was not able to care for them both, and the boys ended up in a State institution where conditions were poor, and discipline was harsh. They weren't reunited with their father until 1994 when they made it to Australia to live with him and his new wife. There were some initial rough patches, but Sun ended up getting along well with his new stepmother.

As Sun had a fairly poor grasp of English, he didn't spend much time at school, turning instead to various unskilled jobs. He was a pretty placid guy, but was prone to acting impulsively on occasions, and had picked up a habit of smoking pot.

Late one evening in April 1997 Sun went to his friend Justin's house to buy some pot. Another friend of Justin's, named Kyle, was also at the house. Sun and Kyle hadn't met before, and did not take to each other. It seems they got into some sort of argument while they were there. Kyle left Justin's shortly after, and Sun hung around for a while, smoking with Justin. He didn't think anything more of the fight with Kyle, and certainly had no plans to see him again.

Sun decided to leave before it became light, and headed off towards his car, parked in a street nearby. Little did he know, Kyle had decided to lie in wait for him, still angered by the fight earlier that night. He armed himself with a knife and hid behind a tree. When Sun walked past, Kyle grabbed him and threw him to the ground. Sun quickly pulled out a knife of his own, a small, folding knife, and as Kyle came towards him a second time, he lunged forwards and stabbed him in the neck and head. The neck wound penetrated Kyle's upper spinal cord and he died instantly.

Sun had clearly been taken by surprise at Kyle's ambush, having thought he'd left a while ago. It was still dark, and he was frightened when thrown to the ground. Although the knife was more of the pocket kind than anything else, and wasn't carried for protection or to injure anyone, unfortunately he managed to take a life with it, even in a fight that only lasted a few seconds.

Sun phoned Justin and told him what happened, and that he'd killed Kyle, although he hadn't meant to. Justin rang him back later in the morning and asked Sun to meet him at Wollstonecraft. When he got there, Sun told Justin that a member of the '5T' gang had also been there at the fight, and the gang was now demanding $30,000 from him to keep quiet about the matter. Justin met up with Sun again later on, and gave him $2,000 to help him out.

Of course, the story about the gang was a lie, and led to Sun being charged with 'obtaining money by deception', in addition to the murder charge. It is not clear why he chose to take this tack, but by the time police got hold of him, they agreed that he was well aware of the enormity of what he had done, and was clearly regretted his actions. He said of Kyle "even though he started the scuffle, he did not deserve to die".

Sun went on trial for murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter as soon as it was offered by the Crown (on the second day of his trial).

Due to some confusion about Sun's age (he was actually 17 at the time but believed he was 18) he was detained in the adult prison at Long Bay. He found this experience terrifying. He said he was assaulted by prison officers on one occasion, and was constantly in fear of being sexually abused. Things were a bit better after he was moved to Silverwater Jail, and he managed to get some part time prison work as a sweeper.

He was eventually transferred to Kariong Juvenile Justice Centre once his true age was established through Korean records, but things were a lot worse there. Readers may recall rioting that took place at Kariong in March and April of 1999. It doesn't appear that Sun took an active part in the riots, but the environment was still a harsh and frightening one to be in.

At the end of April Sun was moved to Mount Penang Juvenile Justice Centre, and was unfortunately involved in two rather violent incidents. In one he was just trying to stop a younger boy from being assaulted by a group, and ended up with a fractured cheekbone, that required surgery. In the other incident he turned out to be the aggressor, assaulting another resident who was arguing with him.

Nonetheless he was not regarded as a problem by staff, who described him as "compliant and cooperative" and "a thoughtful, mature young man" who was "not a management problem." It appears in the isolated incident of aggression that perhaps two years of incarceration finally got the better of him, and he snapped.

Sun made the most of his time in custody by furthering his education - not only improving his English, but also studying maths and visual arts. He was on track to complete his School Certificate, and also planned to do his HSC.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison, with a non-parole period of four years. He appealed the harshness of this sentence. A review by the Appeal Court found he was a good man, with strong family support, who was unlikely to re-offend. They reduced his sentence to five years and six months, with a non-parole period of two years and nine months.

Sun was released on 13 February 2000.

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