Police v Christian Petrella

Police v Christian Petrella

In this matter Greg Walsh acted for Christian Petrella at the Downing Centre Local Court.

Christian Petrella was charged with:

  • Intention to choke person with recklessness on 21 April 2019.
  • Assault occasioning actual bodily harm on 12 June 2019.
  • Destroy or damage property in April 2019.

Magistrate Baptie heard the matter over four (4) days.

Christian Petrella, who was aged 22 years was arrested by the Police on 13 June 2019. He had been involved in a relationship with a woman aged 21 years. He’d never previously been the subject of any criminal charges and was a person of good character.

Magistrate Baptie set out in her reasoning’s that the circumstances whereby a complaint was made by Christian’s girlfriend on 12 June 2019. She participated in a DVAC recording. Christian, who had been living with the Complainant for about six (6) months, was not aware of her previous psychiatric history.

She alleged to the Police that on 12 June 2019, she had an argument and referred to having depression, and this was triggered. She had unexpectedly come home to their residence at Pyrmont. Christian was in the bathroom having a shower, when she unexpectedly entered and wanted a kiss from him. He indicated that he could not, at that stage, as he was brushing his teeth in the shower, She left the bathroom and went upstairs and locked the bedroom door. Christian had all his clothes, mobile phone, wallet and key card in the bedroom. He knocked on the door but there was no answer and he went down to the kitchen and got a spoon and was able to open the door in that way.

He entered the bedroom and observed that the Complainant was facing against the wall and was sobbing and crying. He had already made arrangements with the Complainant earlier in the day, to attend a movie at George Street and had purchased the tickets to do so. The arrangement was that he would meet her in the City at about 5.30 pm. She had unexpectedly come home and he saw her upset, sat on the bed and sought to dab her eyes with some tissues to help her. He spoke compassionately to her.

She suddenly sat up and attacked Christian, scratching his arms, chest and back. He did not react in any violent way but was shocked by the behaviour of the Complainant. The attack, by the Complainant upon Christian, was a very violent one, with him suffering quite significant and deep scratches, in particular to his back.

The Complainant gave a variety of versions to the Police in the DVAC interview, including that the incident occurred upstairs and then downstairs and then upstairs again. These versions were set out, at length, in Magistrate Baptie’s Judgment.

Christian decided to leave the residence and packed his belongings into cardboard boxes and called an Uber. He wanted to go to the toilet, which was situated in the bathroom downstairs and after locking the bathroom door, he was confronted by the Complainant, who had a knife in her hand and who had opened the door with that He pleaded with her to leave him alone, as he wanted to use the toilet, and eventually was able to leave the bathroom, as did the Complainant, and then he returned to the bathroom so he could go to the toilet.

The Complainant then sought to force her way into the bathroom, as he attempted to shut the bathroom door and her leg was caught between the door and the door frame. Immediately he realised this and he allowed the door to be released. He then shut the door and went to the toilet. Thereafter, he got his belongings, got in the Uber which arrived. and went to his mother’s home.

Christian’s mother observed that her son was very upset and had suffered significant injuries and she took photographs of those injuries.

The Complainant made allegations of an earlier incident on 21 April 2019, in which the Complainant alleged that Christian had tried to strangle her with a phone cord. He denied doing this and, in fact, the Complainant had placed the blue phone cord around her neck, after there was an argument involving the Complainant bringing the vacuum cleaner from downstairs to the bedroom upstairs, at about 11.00 pm. She was concerned that Christian was not pulling his weight, so far as domestic duties were concerned.

His case was that she had emptied the contents of the vacuum cleaner onto the bedroom floor and got his laptop and placed it in the material on the floor from the vacuum cleaner and then threw his mobile phone down the stairs. He made a critical comment of her, to the effect that what she was doing was “dumb”. After he recovered his phone and returned to the bedroom, he observed that she had placed the iPhone cord around her neck and she was red in the face. He immediately approached her and got his finger to release the pressure around the cord and her neck.

She called out to the flatmate in the house and he, Christian, wanted to just leave the flat, to get some “fresh air”. He was shocked about her conduct. According to the Complainant, the flatmate had witnessed the assault and injury to her neck. This was not supported by the flatmate.

At the time of instructing Greg Walsh, Christian indicated that the Complainant’s behaviour was somewhat strange and in particular that he had done nothing to offend her or cause her to behave the way she did. Greg Walsh sought instructions as to whether the Complainant had any psychiatric history and though Christian was not specifically aware of this, he had become aware that the Complainant had sought treatment at a well-known psychiatric hospital in Sydney.

Greg Walsh took steps to issue a Subpoena, to obtain the psychiatric records of the Complainant.

In due course, those records were produced and quite sadly, the Complainant had a lengthy history of a psychotic-type illness that was diagnosed as Cluster B Personality Disorder. She was diagnosed as suffering from a Borderline Personality Disorder: Narcissistic Disorder and Comorbid Depression.

In particular, the Complainant had a history of self-harm, in circumstances where she experienced any perceived rejection. This is a classic history of Cluster B Personality Disorder.

Greg Walsh qualified Dr Olav Nielssen, who provided a report which was served upon the Prosecution, at an early time. According to Dr Nielssen, the symptoms of a person suffering from such a disorder, are such that they are hyposensitive to any suggested rejection and, in particular, have poor distress tolerance, emotional dysregulation, poor coping strategies and a dysfunctional family system.

In cross-examination of the Complainant, she denied on occasions, her history as recorded in the extensive psychiatric records. She had a history, including self-strangulation and suffocation, in circumstances of perceived rejection. Thus, her behaviour was consistent with her psychiatric illness. She had also denied her dosage of Seroquel} suggesting it was 5 mg, when in fact on one occasion, she attempted, sadly, to take her own life and took 30 tablets of Seroquel, which were 25 mg.

The Defendant gave evidence as to Dr Nielssen and the Defendant’s mother.

Her Honour, Magistrate Baptie, dismissed each of the charges against the Defendant and an Application has been made for Christian’s costs.

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