R v Dawson (2022) NSWSC 1632

R v Dawson (2022) NSWSC 1632

On 2 December 2022, Harrison J sentenced Christopher Dawson to imprisonment for 24 years commencing on 30 August 2022 expiring 29 August 2046 with a non-parole period of 18 years expiring on 29 August 2040.

Christopher Michael Dawson was convicted on 30 August 2022 following a trial before his honour without a jury of the murder of his wife Lynette Dawson on or about 8 January 1982. Facts upon which his sentence are set out in his honour’s verdict judgment (R v Dawson [20221 NSWSC 1311).

Harrison J set out in his remarks on summary of the facts found against Mr Dawson. His Honour found that Mr Dawson killed his wife by a voluntary act performed by him with the intention of causing her death. His Honour found that this increased the objective seriousness of the offence of murder, in contrast or death caused by an act committed with the intention merely to inflict grievous bodily harm. As Lynette Dawson’s body has never been found, the precise way in which she died is not and cannot be known. This was found by his Honour to be an aggravating circumstance of the offence of murder, R v Wilkinson (No 5) [2009] NSWSC 432 [61]. Harrison J found that objectively the crime was a very serious one. His Honour found that Mr Dawson planned to kill his wife, and he did so in a domestic context.

His Honour, in accordance with s 28 of the Crimes (Sentencing and Procedure) Act 1999, considered victim impact statements read to the Court on behalf of Lynette Dawson’s daughter Shanelle, her brother Gregory, and sister Patricia. His Honour considered the subjective circumstances of Mr Dawson who was born on 1948 and was 74 years of age at the time of sentence. His Honour found that he suffered a fractured hip, a fractured rib and moderate aortic regurgitation. A brain scan on April 2021 revealed what appears to be microangiopathic vasculopathy. Dr Olav Nielssen who examined Mr Dawson on several occasions, found that he was suffering from a depressive illness. His Honour referred to a number of testimonials that spoke of Mr Dawson’s characteristics, as a “loving father, a dad and grandfather, and a loving and loyal husband’.

In respect of the issue extra curial punishment, his Honour rejected a submission by Greg Walsh that the extraordinary publicity was a matter that ought to be taken into account upon the sentencing of Mr Dawson. His Honour was referred to the findings of Fullerton J in R v Dawson [2020] NSWSC 1221 and the observations of Bathurst CJ in Dawson v R [2021] NSWCCA 117. His Honour acknowledged that the publicity has undoubtedly been intent on. However, his Honour made a finding that as Mr Dawson’s crime is a matter of intense public interest, such attention that he has received is directly referrable to that interest.

His Honour referred to the issue of delay and that Mr Dawson was to be sentenced at the time the offence was committed, in so far as those sentencing practices can be ascertained. His Honour rejected a submission by Mr Walsh that any delay between the commission of the offence and Mr Dawson’s arrest and trial were not attributable to the operation of the criminal justice system in the relevant sense. His Honour found special circumstances under s 44(2) of the Crimes (Sentencing and Procedure) Act 1999.


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