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Family of murdered WWII veteran get jail boost for killer

The family of war veteran brutally murdered in his home on the eve of his 90th birthday has lauded a move by the Court of Appeal to add eight years to the sentence of one of his killers.

In April last year, 29-year-old Jonathon Cooper was sentenced to 16 years behind bars with a non-parole period of 13 years for the murder of Ken Handford during a bungled burglary at his Springbank home near Ballarat.

In September 2015, Mr Handford was tied up by the cord of his dressing gown, stabbed 13 times in the back then left to slowly die in his isolated home on Barkstead Road, after Cooper and another man Adam Lucas Williamson broke in.

With time already served Cooper could have been released in 11 years.

He was re-sentenced this week to 24 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 20 years for the charges of murder, aggravated burglary, and theft.

At the time of the original sentence, Mr Handford’s family described it as a "sledgehammer to the heart" and launched a petition lobbying the Victorian Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecution for Cooper to be re-sentenced.

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The petition gathered over 30,000 signatures and on May 18, 2017, the DPP lodged a notice of appeal with the Victorian Supreme Court.

Three Court of Appeal judges agreed Cooper's original sentence did not reflect the gravity of his crime.

He was re-sentenced to 24 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 20 years for the charges of murder, aggravated burglary, and theft.

His granddaughter, Leah Handford, said the family felt vindicated by Cooper's extended sentence.

"The original sentence came with such a strong response and such outcry," Ms Handford said. "We feel this decision has really righted a wrong that Justice Dixon delivered last year."

Ms Handford said her grandfather was a kindhearted and generous man who regularly visited vulnerable members of his small rural community.

He spent the day before he was killed checking on the homes of his neighbours as the town of about 110 people attended the Springbank Football grand final.

Though nothing will bring back her beloved pop, Ms Handford said she hoped the appeal would set a precedent for other families seeking justice for loved ones who are victims of violent crimes.

"We should have never had to push for an appeal," she said.

"One of the biggest fears we had was that a manifestly unjust sentence would be the legacy he was left with. But now, that sentence has been so strongly denounced, what has happened is that his death will have the opposite effect, and instead, it will make it harder for violent criminals in cases like this to get away with lighter sentences."

Transcripts from the appeal hearing show judges Mark Weinberg, Phillip Priest, and David Beach felt the murder was "an extremely serious example of a very serious offence".

“The elderly victim was attacked whilst alone in his home, assaulted, trussed-up, terrorised, stabbed multiple times and left to slowly die. Given the viciousness and cruelty of the murder, the sentence ... [is] so disproportionate to the seriousness of the crime as to demonstrate error in principle.”

Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Gavin Silbert QC welcomed the decision saying it clarifies the limits to the sentencing discounts available for evidence given against co-offenders, where the offender is himself guilty of a terrible crime.

Mr Silbert said the decision also demonstrated that the High Court decision late last year in the case of man sentenced under the pseudonym Dalgleish was starting to have an effect on sentences imposed in the state.

“Charlie Dalgliesh” had his jail term increased by four years after he sexually abused his stepdaughter, who ­became pregnant at 13.

Victorian prosecutors also successfully challenged another 12-year jail sentence for a child sex offender, Fabian Roy Meharry, arguing it was manifestly inadequate.

The Court of Appeal almost doubled the prison term for Meharry, who groomed girls online to perform sex acts, last year.

Adam Williamson pleaded guilty to murdering Ken Handford, and is awaiting his sentence.

With The Ballarat Courier