Henry Hammond, the alleged killer of Greek Australian woman Courtney (Konstantina) Herron, has been found not guilty because of mental impairment, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday.
The body of Ms Herron, 25, was discovered at a Melbourne Park in May 2019, following what police had described as a ‘horrendous bashing’.
The incident sparked an outpouring of grief and condemnation across the community, with Courtney becoming then the fourth Melbourne woman to be violently killed and dumped in a public place in less than 12 months.
Now, a bit more than a year after the tragedy, court procedures on the matter are almost concluded, but the family’s demand for justice is far from met.
“I wouldn’t be speaking and conducting any interviews if he’d been sentenced properly,” Courtney’s father, John Herron, tells Neos Kosmos.
Based on the expert witness reports prepared by a Consultant Psychiatrist and a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Mr Hammond is unfit to stand trial for the alleged crime and thus cannot be held criminally responsible due to being diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The expert evidence presented at court suggest that the accused was “acutely unwell at the time of the offence” and cite “underlying psychotic beliefs” as drivers for his actions rendering him unable “to reason[…] his conduct in attacking Courtney was wrong”. While illicit substance misuse is mentioned as a potential factor worsening the effects of his condition, it was deemed that the psychosis he was suffering at the time was not drug induced.
‘Devastating and alarming’
Deemed unfit to stand trial for these reasons, Mr Hammond is expected to be admitted to a psychiatric facility instead of doing jail time.
A Consent Mental Impairment Hearing scheduled for 17 August will give the final extensive order, but as Mr Herron explains all is left is basically for the judge to direct the transfer of Mr Hammond to a designated psychiatric hospital.
A practising lawyer himself, Mr Herron says he hasn’t seen the reports making it hard to draw a judgment as a professional, but as a father he describes the outcome as ‘devastating’ and alarming’.
“First of all, when I found out that the killer had been released early I thought my daughter would still be alive [if he hadn’t been released].
This is devastating. And the fact that he won’t be punished for this is two blows really for a parent.”
Mr Herron refers to the early release of the accused, while serving a 10 months’ prison time for a separate assault incident against his former partner that took place in August 2018.
It was just three weeks before the fatal attack on Courtney Herron, that the accused successfully appealed the sentence and was released with a community corrections order.
Notwithstanding his personal dissatisfaction, Mr Herron points to what he sees as yet another problematic aspect of the outcome.
“At the psychiatric hospital he can be released at any time. There’s no set time limit for that. So there’s a wider problem: community safety.”
“It’s very alarming. Because you’re not sure what type of perpetrator is allowed or released in the community,” he says speaking of a “very dangerous environment created for young women” as a result of offenders not being sentenced.
“And that’s exemplified by the rising trend of deaths of young women in Melbourne over the last three years.”
The grieving father says the only chance to reverse the current decision would be through an intervention by the Attorney General.
And though community sentiment could potentially play a role to that, he describes the possibility as highly unlikely.
“My hands are tied, I can’t pressure to change the outcome.”
But he says there’s one thing he can do to make sure his daughter’s legacy is upheld.
“There’s nothing I can do to reverse Courtney’s situation, but I know Courtney would not want this to happen to other women.
“So the main thing is to get Courtney’s story into the public, to make sure, as Courtney would want, that this type of situation doesn’t happen again in the future.”