26 June, 2010

One fight too many...

Dale and Sharon Barry were married in 1992, following a short relationship, in which he’d been found guilty of assaulting her two months before the wedding. Dale against assaulted his new bride on her wedding night. He was convicted again, and given a community service order (despite being on a good behaviour bond for the previous assault). Dale and Sharon separated, but began living together again within a few months.

Sharon already had two other children by two other men: Tara, born in 1985, and Benjamin, born in 1991. She also had two daughters with Dale - Jaimyn and Ashlee, born 1993 and 1995 respectively.

The marriage continued, with disagreements, and at least one further episode of violence. In 1996 Dale struck Sharon on her jaw, resulting in a restraining order (AVO) being taken out against him, and the couple separated once more.

During this time Dale still had access to his children and step-children. In 1997, he accompanies them all on a holiday to Bateman’s Bay. Sharon and Dale began living together once more after that, despite the AVO still being in place. This lasted until October 1997, when there was a further episode of violence, this time involving Sharon’s son Benjamin. Another AVO was imposed and Dale moved out, seeking access to his kids.

During this time Dale admitted himself to Nolan House at Albury Base Hospital for treatment for his alcoholism. After that, he stayed with workmates Arthur Milgate and Angela Harris. Two weeks after his discharge from hospital, he told Angela he intended to kill his wife. However Angela talked him out of it, or so she believed.

In December 1997, Sharon told Dale he was no longer allowed access to the children. Two days later, Dale was seen drinking at the Boomerang Hotel at Lavington. At 12:30am he was seen by the supervisor of the Hotel standing by his car, which was parked around the back. He then made his way to the family home at Springvale, arriving at around 2am.

There were no signs of forced entry, so it was not clear if he let himself in with keys, or if Sharon let him in. They immediately began to argue about access to the kids. The remaining evidence came from Tara, as Dale subsequently claimed complete amnesia.

Tara saw them both in the main bedroom, Dale on top of Sharon. Tara returned to her bedroom and stood in the doorway, where she saw Dale walk down the hall towards the kitchen. As he passed Tara, he turned to face her, and stabbed her in the upper abdomen. The wound was 2-3cm wide and 6-7cm long, penetrating her liver. Such a wound required significant thrust.

Dale then forced Tara and Sharon into the kitchen and forced them to the floor. He then stabbed Sharon four times - three on her right breast and one in her upper right arm. The main wound was in the middle of her right breast, 2cm wide and 16cm long. It penetrated a major blood vessel in her lungs, leading to blood loss and death.

Dale left the kitchen, leaving Sharon and Tara bleeding on the floor. He went to attend to the younger children, who had been disturbed by the noise. When he returned, he picked up a padded stool from the kitchen and began to beat Sharon around the face and head with it. She sustained about five blunt force wounds, plus lacerations to her face, nose and cheek, and defensive wounds.

While Dale remained in the house, Tara managed to make it back to her bedroom, where she lay on her bed until she heard him leave. She then made it to Benjamin’s room and told him to get help. Benjamin ran next door to Mrs Grelli’s house, who came in, saw the blood and called the police.

Dale pleaded not guilty to the murder of Sharon at his trial. He formally admitted to attacking her, with intent to at least do her grievous bodily harm, but claimed he had a defence of ‘diminished responsibility’ - i.e his mental state, his depression and possible mood disorders, caused him to lose control. The issue of provocation was also raised - with the aim of reducing the conviction to manslaughter.

The jury clearly rejected both defences.

Dale was convicted of murdering his wife Sharon, and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent to his step-daughter Tara. The Judge felt ‘grievous bodily harm’ did not do justice to Tara’s injuries, which were likely to result in significant morbidity in the future.

In sentencing Dale, his mental state was relevant in mitigation, however the Judge found there was no real ‘loss of control’. Dale came from an unfortunate background - his father was killed in a road accident when he was young, and he had a violent step-father. His biggest problem was alcohol, although he occasionally smoked pot and used heroin. He claimed to be remorseful for what he had done, and said he loved his own children very much, but this was diminished by his past episodes of violence against his step-children.

For the murder of Sharon, Dale Barry was sentenced to 24 years in prison, with a non-parole period of 18 years. For the wounding of Tara, he received a fixed term of 12 years, to be served at the same time.

He will be eligible for release in December 2015.