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Man acquitted of stabbing neighbour during fight over power bill

A Red Hill man has been acquitted of stabbing a neighbour during a fight over an electricity bill.

An ACT Supreme Court judge on Monday quashed Benjamin Rhodes conviction for intentionally wounding the man.

Mr Rhodes was found guilty of the stabbing and sentenced to 18 months jail in the ACT Magistrates Court in May 2012.

But Mr Rhodes, who also received knife wounds during the fight, immediately appealed the decision, arguing the court could not be satisfied of his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The Magistrates Court heard that an electrical lead ran from Mr Rhodes unit to their downstairs neighbours flat when the incident occurred in August 2011.

The confrontation began when Mr Rhodes partner demanded money for the power and a phone charger.


The neighbour said he went upstairs to pay $30 but was attacked by a knife wielding Mr Rhodes, who stabbed him in the back twice and punctured a lung.

But Mr Rhodes argued the man had barged into his unit wielding a knife when the power had been switched off.

He alleged the intruder had punched the woman in the face and then stabbed Mr Rhodes in the arm during a struggle for the blade.

The presiding Magistrate rejected the self-defence version of events and convicted Mr Rhodes of the offence.

But Chief Justice Terence Higgins found the magistrate had erred on the ground of lack of inquiry as to the power bill or the triple-0 call.

The judge said Mr Rhodes version of events could not be excluded as a reasonable hypothesis.

“It is consistent with self-defence,” Chief Justice Higgins wrote in his judgment.

“Even accepting [that] version of events as exaggerated and, to some extent confused, it does not exclude the possibility that [the neighbour], enraged at being disturbed, came with money to pay [the woman] but pushed or struck [her] to the floor following a brief altercation, whilst bursting into the flat to protest, and the appellant then acted as he described.

“In those circumstances, it seems to me that the finding of guilt was unsafe and unsatisfactory.”

Chief Justice Higgins ordered the conviction and sentence be overturned.