ACT News

Traumatised carer assaulted, trapped disabled girlfriend

A traumatised carer assaulted and trapped his disabled girlfriend in her Canberra home just months after he was convicted of threatening to kill her. 

Steven Julian East, 28, lived in ACT disability housing with his girlfriend and had acted as her full-time carer for four years.

The woman had debilitating back pain and mental health issues, and East helped her with making meals, medication, and day-to-day activities. 

But their relationship was described as dysfunctional and toxic.

East threatened to kill her while brandishing a hammer, a large rock and then a kitchen knife in 2012, a crime he was sentenced for in the ACT Magistrates Court in February 2013.

He remained her carer, despite the conviction.

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Eight months later, East assaulted her and unlawfully confined her in her home.

The pair had argued, and East refused to leave, instead preventing her from walking out. 

The woman was repeatedly stopped from escaping, including when she tried to leave through the kitchen window.

East would grab her and drag her back to the apartment, and, at one point, forced her onto the couch and grabbed her throat, restricting her from breathing. 

ACT Supreme Court Justice Hilary Penfold sentenced him on Monday to 22 months imprisonment for the more recent crimes, and for breaching a good behaviour order put in place after he threatened to kill her.

He will be eligible for parole in three months, due to time already served.

The pair have since broken up, and East has accepted responsibility, sought to apologise, and expressed disappointment in himself.

The court heard East had a harrowing childhood. 

He watched his mother commit suicide when he was just eight.

Up until then, East was forced to physically confront men who were trying to take advantage of his severely mentally ill mother in her Civic flat.

He never knew his father, and was taken in by a more recent partner of his mother after her death.

That man, the court heard, beat his children to cope.

East began fighting at school after the suicide, and was expelled.

Justice Penfold said he still suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety from the events in his childhood. 

"You've had a very rough time for much of your life and you've done well to stay out of trouble for most of it," she said.

East was urged to seek counselling "to deal with the scars of your very tragic childhood".

Support is available for those who may be distressed by phoning beyondblue on 1300 22 4636; Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

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