THOMAS Kelly should have celebrated his 22nd birthday with family and friends last Wednesday.
Instead, his grieving family, dad Ralph, mum Kathy and siblings Madeleine and Stuart, packed their bags and boarded a flight without Thomas, and flew to the other side of the world.
They left Sydney for Europe one week before Christmas to avoid being home for that as well.
Christmases, birthdays and other important occasions only remind the Kellys of what should have been, and what is.
Nothing has been the same for the family since Thomas Kelly’s life was tragically cut short in a random one-punch attack.
Kelly was walking along a Sydney street with his girlfriend when he suffered an unforeseen fatal blow from Kieran Loveridge on July 7, 2012.
It was Kelly’s first night out in Kings Cross and his last night alive.
He was just 18 years old.
“Happy 22nd birthday our darling son and brother — Thomas,” a Facebook post from the Kelly family read on January 6.
“Time goes so fast, yet stands still.
“You’re never far from our thoughts and prayers.
“We love you. Mum, Dad, Maddie and Stu xxxxxx.”
Thomas’ father, Ralph, told news.com.au from Europe on Friday it was “easier not to be at home”.
“On the anniversary of his death we also try and escape somewhere to be on our own as a family,” Ralph Kelly said. “It’s heartbreaking. Every day I get up and think about what could have been for him. He lost his life for no reason. We have no answers for it.
“I sometimes lie in bed at night and wonder what the perpetrator is thinking. I don’t think he cares.”
Loveridge was sentenced to four years for manslaughter in a case that set off a dramatic chain of events.
The sentence sparked a remarkable outcry from Kelly’s family, friends and the public.
Thomas Kelly’s parents Ralph and Kathy leave the Supreme Court disappointed after their son’s killer Kieran Loveridge was initially sentenced to four years for manslaughter.Source:News Limited
The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal later found Loveridge’s sentence to be “manifestly inadequate” and doubled it to a minimum of 10 years for the manslaughter of Kelly.
Following Kelly’s death, the then-O’Farrell NSW government bowed to public pressure and implemented stricter mandatory minimum sentencing laws for violent offences fuelled by drugs or alcohol.
The most significant enactment was section 25A of the Crimes Act, which created a new offence of assaulting a person by hitting (with a part of the body or an object, and with no limit to the number of hits) and causing death. The maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment.
If the offender is an adult without cognitive impairment and under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the maximum penalty is 25 years with a mandatory minimum sentence of eight years.
Under the NSW government’s crackdown on alcohol- and drug-related violence, all pubs and clubs in Sydney’s CBD and Kings Cross, were forced to lock out new customers from 1.30am and cease alcohol trading by 3am, as of February 2014.
The mandatory lockout laws also prevented the sale of shots of spirits and premix drinks with more than five per cent alcohol content after midnight.
Under the restrictions, bottle shops across NSW must close by 10pm.
On Friday, the Daily Telegraph revealed NSW bottle shops will be forced to continue closing at 10pm, with Premier Mike Baird adamant the restriction will not be removed following a two-year review of NSW’s mandatory lockout laws next month.
Mr Baird’s stance means all current lockout and drinks restrictions in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross are expected to remain in place long term.
Ralph Kelly said he welcomed all new legislation designed to combat alcohol-related violence and prevent more injuries and deaths.
But according to Ralph, the laws introduced since his son’s death haven’t changed behaviours and attitudes towards alcohol-related violence, including one punch attacks.
“It’s way too early to see a change,” he said.
“Behaviour change takes at least 15 years.
“And it’s only one small piece of the jigsaw to solving problems. Alcohol is a major factor that the government needs to better address. We have a long way to go.”
Ralph and Kathy Kelly founded the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation, in memory of their son and to help curb the kind of alcohol-fuelled violence that robbed Thomas Kelly of his life.
“You can have all the legislation in the world but you also need education to advise people of the harmful effects of irresponsible drinking,” Ralph Kelly said.
The spotlight this week turned to Queensland after Cole Miller, 18, was killed in almost identical circumstances to Thomas Kelly in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.
Miller was allegedly hit on the side of the head in an unprovoked, random attack as he walked to a taxi rank on Sunday.
He died in hospital the following day.
Cole Miller died after an assault in Fortitude Valley. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied
In QLD, the “unlawful striking causing death” charge was introduced in 2014 as part of the “Safe Night Out” legislation aimed at combating alcohol and drug-fuelled violence.
Armstrong Renata, 21, and Daniel Maxwell, 21, were this week charged under the legislation in relation to Miller’s death.
Renata and Maxwell will reappear in court over coming weeks.
Ralph Kelly said his heart broke for Miller’s family after the rising water polo star was killed in an apparent coward’s punch attack.
“It’s difficult to see other families going through that pain because you relive it when you see it in the parents’ eyes,” he said. “I saw the look in Cole’s father’s eyes when he was talking [on TV].
“You know the challenges they’re going to face over years to come as they go through the court process. When you lose a child you share a thing that no one who hasn’t lost a child understands. You don’t want to experience something like that in your life. That’s not what we’re here for.”
In the wake of Miller’s tragic death on Monday, debate about controversial lockout laws for Queensland’s pubs and clubs is expected to rage on ahead of a parliamentary report.
The Labor state government has renewed its campaign to adopt lockout laws, which will make most venues serve last drinks at 2am instead of 5am.
But Acting Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek said if the government is serious about stamping out violence it should develop a comprehensive plan like the former Liberal National Party government’s 60-point “Safe Night Out” Strategy.
That plan featured tougher penalties for drunken offenders and more police on streets.
Debate is expected to continue on the hotly contested issue ahead of a report from the parliamentary legal affairs and community safety committee, due on February 8.
Ralph Kelly said he expects the number of one-punch victims and victims of alcohol-related issues to climb nationally.
And if the first week of 2016 is anything to go by, he’s on the money.
It was less than two hours into the New Year when 19-year-old Tristian Jarman received a blow to the head by one of six men who had allegedly approached him on Alexandria St in Adelaide.
The one-punch attack caused Jarman to have a seizure and left him fighting for his life in the Intensive Care Unit of Adelaide Hospital.
Jarman’s facial injuries were so severe his lip had to be sewn back onto his face by surgeons.
He remained in hospital earlier this week in a serious but stable condition after he had a seizure and was found to be bleeding from the brain in three places, according to a family statement on Facebook.
Police are appealing for witnesses with the alleged offenders yet to be identified.
Jarman’s family said they had received information the incident was filmed and also want the witnesses to come forward.
“In the meantime, we all appreciate the thoughts and prayers for my baby brother,” Jarman’s sister wrote in a public statement online.
The attack on Jarman might have been one of the first brutal assaults to ring in the New Year but it certainly wasn’t the last.
Jamberoo jockey Peter Wells, 31, was punched and left with a broken left eye socket, swelling on the brain, bleeding behind his left eye and injuries to his face after allegedly intervening in a domestic dispute in Berry, NSW early Sunday morning.
The attack occurred the same morning Miller fell victim to a fatal one-punch attack in Brisbane.
Wells, who tips the scales at 53kgs, allegedly tried to break up a fight between a man and a woman outside a south-coast pub around 1am.
Wells told news.com.au he had calmly intervened, after a man became aggressive towards a young woman, when one unexpected blow to the head knocked him unconscious.
“I just said to him calmly ‘come on, can’t we all just go home?’ and he lost the plot,” Wells said.
“I was the only other male there and there was no option but to step in. I’ve never been in a fight in my life. I’m not that kind of person. I would have felt a lot worse if he took his anger out on any of the girls.”
Wells was yesterday on bed rest under medical advice as he recovers from his injuries which have rendered him temporarily unable to work.
“I was riding really well so it’s disappointing as it’s not the kind of job you can just slot back into,” he said. “People have a lot to live for and no one has the right to take that away from you with punch attacks.”
Champion boxer Danny Green agreed.
Green launched the Coward’s Punch Campaign and self-funded a TV commercial after a young man was punched and killed in his home town of Perth. Green is a strong advocate against street violence.
He was also outspoken when 18-year-old Sydney man Daniel Christie was hit by a coward’s punch that killed him during a night out at Kings Cross and again when Thomas Kelly was killed by Loveridge almost four years ago.
Shaun McNeil, the man who hit Christie, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years jail.
In his Facebook post, which has been shared more than 22,000 times, Green suggested life in prison might be a suitable punishment for a person convicted over a fatal one-punch attack.
“Begs the question: What sentence is strong enough to stop this madness? Life in jail for an innocent life taken?” he wrote.
He told news.com.au he stands by his comments. “If a person is facing life in jail, if we throw away the key, would that not make people think twice?”
Anyone with information relating to crime should contact the Police Assistance line on 131 444 or Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000
Megan Palin, News.com.au
09th January, 2016