Travesty of justice as man spends two years extra in prison
A MAN has spent 750 more days in custody than he should have after a manslaughter charge was dismissed.
Chief Justice Catherine Holmes today sentenced Troy Allan Donovan to 12 months' jail for the assault occasioning bodily harm of his partner Bernandine Frances Clement, a sentence wholly served. The court heard had he been sentenced in 2016, he would have been given parole after three months.
However, Donovan spent two years, three months and 21 days in custody awaiting a trial for manslaughter as prosecutors struggled to track down Ms Clement's medical records.
Donovan, 41, had been travelling from Western Australia to Northern Territory with defacto partner Ms Clement, 38.
The pair were heading to Bundaberg when they stopped overnight at Bladensburg National Park, 17km south-west of Winton, on April 19, 2016.
The Supreme Court of Rockhampton yesterday heard Donovan and Ms Clement had been drinking the night before she was discovered dead.
An argument led to Ms Clement punching Donovan several times before he retaliated by hitting her with a stick three times.
The stick caused injuries to the back of Ms Clement's head, described by Crown prosecutor Joshua Phillips as "deep enough to go through the full thickness of skin”.
Donovan was originally charged with one count of assault occasioning bodily harm while armed and one count of acts intended to cause grievous bodily harm or transmit a serious disease.
Those charges were upgraded to manslaughter at a committal hearing on September 11, 2017.
The upgrade was based on autopsy results by forensic pathologist Dr Nigel Buxton, who could not "come up with a definitive cause of death” despite the injury to the skull, along with small fractures around Ms Clement's ribs, and a haemorrhage around the ribs and sternum.
Ms Clement also had a chronic pulmonary disease and hepatitis B.
The manslaughter charge was yesterday dismissed with Donovan pleading guilty to one charge of assault occasioning bodily harm while armed after the prosecution finally received Ms Clement's medical records last week.
Justice Holmes questioned Mr Phillips about the delay and why Donovan had spent 842 days in custody.
"It just seems to never have been a very powerful case,” she said.
Mr Phillips said there had never been a bail application made by Donovan.
"Ms Clement's medical records were also hard to obtain,” he said.
Mr Phillips said those records, which showed she had a respiratory obstruction disorder and other medical issues she had been receiving long-term treatment for, were not available to Dr Buxton at the time of the autopsy.
Justice Holmes questioned Deputy Public Defender Robert East about Donovan's future plans.
"That's something he hasn't been able to turn his mind to to any degree,” he said.
Mr East said police had seized Donovan's van during the investigation and he hoped to retrieve it and head south.
He said Donovan never applied for bail as he had nowhere in Queensland to live because of lack of family in the state.
"Part of the tragedy of this is not only have you lost your defacto wife, you have spent two years, three months and 21 days in custody,” she said.
A legal expert has advised The Morning Bulletin that Donovan would not be eligible for compensation for the extra time served as he had been remanded in custody lawfully.