Victoria

Court of Appeal slashes sentence of man jailed for setting fire to pregnant partner

Court of Appeal judges say sentencing judge had been too 'emotional' when he jailed a 22-year-old for 15 years.

A man jailed for 15 years for setting his pregnant partner on fire has had his sentence slashed by a third by Victoria's highest court.

​Yavaz Kilic, 22, doused his partner in petrol and set her ablaze when she tried to leave him. The victim received burns to 20 per cent of her body and the pregnancy was terminated after the attack.

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"You want to make my heart burn, now you can burn, bitch," he said at the time.

Kilic, who was on bail and a community corrections order at the time of the attack, received the second-longest sentence ever imposed in Victoria for the crime of "intentionally causing serious injury".

In sentencing Kilic, County Court Judge James Montgomery said that "the courts have to send a message to the community that violence against women will not be tolerated under any circumstances". But the Court of Appeal rebuked Judge Montgomery for being too "emotional".

Kilic began his rampage by threatening his girlfriend and two others with a samurai sword when she decided to leave the relationship.

After failing to drag her out of a friend's car, Kilic doused her in petrol and set her on fire. The victim, who was 12 weeks' pregnant with their child, spent nine days in intensive care with life-threatening burns.

In March last year, Kilic received a total of 15 years' jail with a non-parole period of 11 years for a series of charges related to the incident. The charge of intentionally causing serious injury attracted a sentence of 14 years, which is the second longest on record.

Judge Montgomery said he "found it hard to recall a more serious example of this type of offending in my 38 years in the criminal law".

"Can we open the newspapers on any day without an account of some man inflicting violence on a woman in a minor or major way?" he asked.

"I made the comment before that it leads me to a conclusion that for some men, it seems like there is a war on women. So I have to impose a sentence that sends a message to the community that this just will not be tolerated."

But the Court of Appeal decided to slash the "manifestly excessive" sentence after finding the judge gave "too much weight to aggravating factors and too little weight to mitigating factors, current sentencing practices, the applicable maximum penalties, and the principle of totality".

Justices Robert Redlich and Simon Whelan expressed particular concern at Judge Montgomery's decision to sentence Kilic so soon after first viewing pictures of the victim's burns, which they noted were "objectively horrific".

"Every judge, no matter that they may have great experience in the area of the law in which they are presiding, is at risk of being unduly influenced by factual matters which are unexpectedly placed before them. [The photographs] were the sort of matter that was inherently likely to elicit an emotional response," the justices said.

They cited an exchange between Kilic's barrister and Judge Montgomery when the court was told the victim had filed no impact statement. Judge Montgomery replied: "Well, do I need one? I've seen the photos. Has your client seen the photos?"

Justices Redlich and Whelan found it would have been "prudent" if Judge Montgomery had taken more time to give "measured consideration" to other sentencing factors.

"The wisdom occasioned by time and calm reflection is likely to have been of benefit to the sentencing exercise," they said.

Among those factors was Kilic's relative youth at 22 years of age, his "genuine remorse" and lack of premeditation, and the fact that the victim did not sustain the same "lifelong major physical or mental disabilities" as victims of similar assaults by fire.

The Court of Appeal also queried whether Judge Montgomery had taken into account that Kilic had also suffered extensive burns to his hands and arms because he had attempted to put out the flames after setting his partner on fire.

Kilic was resentenced to 10 years and 10 months' prison, with a non-parole period of seven years and 6 months.

Victims of Crime Commissioner Greg Davies said he was disgusted by the appeal court decision and the judges' rationale.

"At a time when the entire country is focused on the violence by men against women, it defies belief that a judge would overrule and castigate a colleague for being unduly affected by a horrific images of a victim's injuries," Mr Davies said.

"Why is it that we never hear of a judge accusing another judge of being too concerned about the victim?", he said.

cvedelago@theage.com.au