A South Coast police sergeant who assaulted his partner, told her not to cooperate with investigating police and then posted fake letters of complaint to her employer has been sentenced to jail terms.
However, Mark William Dudley, 41, of North Narooma, will serve his time in the community via Intensive Correction Orders (ICOs).
Dudley was convicted in Batemans Bay Local Court on Friday, January 29, on three counts of common assault, and one count each of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, stalking/intimidating, using a postal service to harass and contravening an AVO.
Dudley had pleaded not guilty to these charges, but in earlier proceedings had pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to ensure safe keeping of a prohibited weapon.
In sentencing submissions, Kate Kenny, representing the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, argued fulltime imprisonment was essential.
She said previous cases involving serving police officers showed the courts considered their roles in the community to be "circumstances of aggravation".
She said Dudley had attempted to pervert the course of justice by "directing" his former partner Jacinta Hayward Ryan not to cooperate with police.
"The offender was on bail at the time," she argued.
"The offender was subject to an AVO with conditions not to contact Ms Hayward Ryan."
Ms Kenny said Dudley had "a pattern of applying pressure".
"The offender provided instruction on how to get matters withdrawn, who to contact and what to say," she told the court.
"He obviously had something to gain. Whether the purpose was achieved is irrelevant.
"The offender came close to achieving his purpose."
Ms Hayward-Ryan did contact Detective Inspector Nelson and said she no longer wanted to proceed, citing financial pressure.
"There is no other option than fulltime imprisonment," Ms Kenny told the court.
Regarding an assault in a vehicle in 2019, Ms Kenny said the victim had been subjected to derogatory behaviour when Dudley spat on her, put her in a painful wrist lock and pushed her from the vehicle.
A further charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm related to an incident early in 2020 when the court found Dudley had pushed Ms Hayward-Ryan's forehead into a brick wall.
"He caused her to bleed and made threats of physical violence," Ms Kenny said.
The court heard evidence that Dudley, while continuing to push Ms Hayward-Ryan's forehead against the wall, referred to a case where an estranged partner had set alight and killed a Queensland woman and her children.
"It was a threat not only to her, but to her children," Ms Kenny argued of Dudley's actions.
Regarding a charge of later using a postal service to harass, Ms Kenny said the action was deliberate and planned.
"There was nothing spontaneous," she said.
Ms Kenny said, by sending three fake letters of complaint to Ms Hayward-Ryan's workplace, under a fictitious name, "her work zone had been invaded and she was under attack".
However defence barrister Peter Gow argued the court did not have to impose a custodial sentence and Dudley was unlikely to reoffend.
"He has made a life and career out of policing," Mr Gow told the court.
Dudley had been an officer for 18 years and had been promoted early in his career as his superiors "were confident in his ability and integrity".
In entering the force, he had been "carrying on a family tradition" and "policing runs deep, not only in his family, but also on the South Coast".
"He is a community minded person, active in sporting clubs; he assists with Legacy," Mr Gow said. He said his client was also an engaged father, taking his children to gym three times each week.
"He has his heart in the right place."
Mr Gow said Dudley was "a trustworthy and decent man" and his referees saw his offences as out of character.
Mr Gow said his client would continue to "suffer" as a result of media coverage of the case.
"He has a low risk of reoffending," Mr Gow said.
"He is not the sort of person who will come back before the court."
With the exception of the postal service offences, Mr Gow argued "all the offences seem to come about without pre-planning" and were "opportunistic in nature" and "spur of the moment".
Regarding the posting of fake letters from Queensland during a visit to Dudley's mother, Mr Gow said "it is not an example of elaborate offending".
"Not much thought went into it," he told the court.
"He was living close to that area. He did not attempt to hide himself."
Dudley's visit to the post office was recorded on CCTV, his fingerprints were found on the material and "he has not gone about it in any sophisticated way", Mr Gow argued.
He said his client had not disputed the facts of the postal offences and it was not "as serious an example as the Crown puts it".
Mr Gow said Ms Hayward-Ryan's employers had investigated and "readily dismissed the allegations" made against her in the letters.
He stressed that Dudley was not charged with possessing a prohibited weapon, rather failing to keep one safe (a Glock magazine).
"These things are brought home in clothing by police officers," Mr Gow said.
"He did not have it for any illegal purpose."
Mr Gow argued the offence was "at the lower level of seriousness" and the magazine was in a drawer, rather than being kept in unlocked vehicle, for instance, or openly displayed.
Mr Gow argued his client deserved a discounted sentence on the weapons charges due to his guilty plea or the court could choose not to record a conviction.
The court had previously heard evidence that Dudley had held the magazine to Ms Hayward-Ryans chin and head on separate occasions.
Regarding the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, Mr Gow argued the injury to Ms Hayward-Ryan's forehead was at "the lower end of objective seriousness".
Mr Gow argued the offence of perverting the course of justice was serious, but "not the most serious example ... not even mid-range".
He said Mr Dudley was speaking to his son, when Ms Hayward-Ryan took the phone to speak to him.
"It is not a case where (Dudley) set out to contact her," he said.
"There was no planning. It was a spur of the moment conversation; there were no threats. It was a one-off."
Mr Gow argued in roughly 50 per cent of similar cases before the courts, offenders "stay out of prison"; that figure rose to 56 per cent in the District Court, where a community-based order was likely to be imposed.
"Half the people do not go to prison in these cases," he said.
"This case is not as objectively serious as my friend (for the Crown) has pointed out," Mr Gow said.
He said his client disputed the Crown's allegations that he had stopped paying the couple's mortgage and this had put financial pressure on Ms Hayward-Ryan - rather he had "contacted the police bank and had the mortgage suspended".
Mr Gow urged the court that a non-fulltime custodial sentence could be imposed for all matters.
Magistrate Dick said some of the offences did require a jail sentence. Dudley had maintained pleas of not guilty to all except the weapons charges.
"You are entitled to strict proof ... you are not entitled to any reduction," Magistrate Dick said.
"I expect you to know the job of this court is to punish, not to forgive."
He said Dudley's kicking of Ms Hayward-Ryan when she was pregnant was "wicked".
"It is a despicable act; kicking your pregnant partner is the lowest of low acts," Magistrate Dick said.
By shaking her, Dudley had demonstrated "an imbalance of power".
"Jacinta could not shake you," he said.
By spitting at her, applying a wrist lock and pushing her, Dudley had "displayed control" and "muscle".
Magistrate Dick said the offence of pushing Ms Hayward-Ryan's forehead into the wall while uttering threats was "very serious".
"The courts have a responsibility to denounce domestic violence of all kinds," he said.
Regarding the offences of perverting the course of justice, using the postal service to harass and breaching the AVO, Magistrate Dick was not complimentary.
"They really were senseless," he told Dudley.
"I accept you did not initiate the call. It then became a case of opportunity."
When Ms Hayward-Ryan had asked how the situation between them could be improved, Dudley had replied "you could start by dropping the charges".
"It was opportunistic, not a plan," Magistrate Dick conceded.
He said he did not believe "the community would require fulltime jail".
Sending fake letters to Ms Hayward-Ryan's employer was "vindictive and spiteful".
"It caused Jacinta to become distressed; it caused her to fear she would lose her job," he said.
"I am told there is a low risk of reoffending (and that) punishment happens outside the court room.
"I have no intention of making an example of you; you will be treated like anyone else."
For pushing Ms Hayward-Ryan's forehead into the wall and stalking/intimidating, Dudley was on each sentenced to 18 months' jail, both to be served in the community via Intensive Corrections Orders (ICOs).
Breaches of ICOs automatically involve parole authorities. Dudley was also ordered to undertake 200 hours of community service on each charge.
On the charge of perverting the course of justice, he was sentenced to two years' jail, to be served via an ICO, with 300 hours of community service.
For the kicking and shaking offences, Magistrate Dick imposed $1000 fines and two-year community corrections orders.
Dudley received the same penalty for the spitting, wrist lock and pushing offence, with an added penalty of 100 hours' community service.
On failing to keep prohibited weapons safely, Dudley was fined $1000 and two-year Community Corrections Orders (CCOs) were imposed.
Magistrate Dick said the charges of using the postal service to harass and the AVO breach were aggravated because Dudley was on bail at the time.
He was convicted on each and sentenced to 9 months on ICOs, plus 100 hours of community service on each.