A South Coast killer may serve less than five years behind bars over the fatal stabbing of a neighbour, after a judge accepted that he had acted to defend himself and his father from the victim.
Daniel James Sharpe, 20, was sentenced in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday to seven years and six months in jail for the manslaughter of 29-year-old Andrew Drake.
Justice Geoffrey Bellew imposed a non-parole period of four years and nine months, making Sharpe eligible for release in October 2024 when time already served is taken into account.
A jury had earlier acquitted Sharpe of murder, but found him guilty of the lesser offence, following a lengthy trial in Queanbeyan.
Justice Bellew said on Friday that the jury must have rejected the prosecution case, which was that Sharpe could not possibly have believed it was necessary to stab Mr Drake at his home in Batemans Bay in April 2019.
The Crown claimed that Sharpe intervened in what had been nothing more than a minor tussle between his father David and Mr Drake, knifing the unarmed victim 11 times and unintentionally slashing his father's hand in the process.
But Sharpe argued Mr Drake, who had hopped over the fence with his sister Penny to drink and listen to music at the Sharpe property in Surfside, had in fact possessed the knife first.
His version was that it was Mr Drake who had cut his father's hand, and that he had managed to twist the blade into the much bigger 29-year-old before gaining complete control of the weapon.
Sharpe testified that he had held the knife while Mr Drake attacked him and the pair "traded blows" for about 50 seconds, until Mr Drake eventually collapsed with fatal injuries.
He could be heard in the background of a triple zero call, which was played during the trial, saying things like: "What's going on, bud? Why did you pull a knife on my dad, man?"
Sharpe's account has deeply upset Mr Drake's close-knit family, who believe it to be false and at odds with the evidence.
But Justice Bellew said he accepted this version of events, though he described the infliction of 11 stab wounds as "obviously excessive" when expert evidence indicated that Mr Drake would probably have been disabled early on in the altercation.
The judge said Sharpe, who was only 18 at the time of the incident, already had "numerous" criminal convictions, including one for possessing a weapon in custody while on remand.
He said reports tendered to the court indicated that Sharpe had had "limited parental supervision" as a child, and had left school at the end of Year 9 after about 40 suspensions.
Justice Bellew described Sharpe as having "a strong emotional pull" towards his father and seeing himself as a sort of "carer" for the alcoholic, who often "passed out" from excessive drinking.
"Any ongoing connection between the offender and his father is not one which is conducive to the offender's best interests," the judge said.
Justice Bellew went on to say that Sharpe, who reported crying several times during the trial, clearly "regrets what has occurred".
But he said he did not accept that the 20-year-old had shown genuine remorse, with some indications the young man had failed to accept responsibility for using excessive force in the stabbing.
The judge also said he was "guarded" about Sharpe's prospects for rehabilitation and the likelihood of him reoffending.
Sharpe hopes to become a horticulturalist once he is released from jail.
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