Fremantle Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Adam Poulsen

A YOUNG man has nar­rowly avoided jail time for an un­pro­voked and un­ex­plained pep­per spray at­tack on a stranger in Fre­man­tle’s CBD.

An­drew Casey Bell (19) was drunk when he ap­proached two men on Ade­laide Street on April 23 and, with­out warn­ing, sprayed one of them di­rectly in the eyes and nose.

Wit­nesses re­ported see­ing the vic­tim — who had to re­ceive med­i­cal treat­ment — scream “my eyes are burn­ing”.

Mo­ments ear­lier they saw Bell fu­ri­ously kick­ing a dis­tri­bu­tion board out­side a nearby 7-11 store for no ap­par­ent rea­son.

After the at­tack, he ran to Fre­man­tle Sta­tion, where he was searched by tran­sit guards in re­la­tion to other mat­ters. When they found the pep­per spray — along with a used meth pipe — he told them it was for “self­de­fence”.

Bell pleaded guilty in Fre­man­tle Mag­is­trates Court last week to as­sault oc­ca­sion­ing bod­ily harm, dis­or­derly be­hav­iour, and pos­ses­sion of a con­trolled weapon and drug para­pher­na­lia.

Mag­is­trate Adam Hills-Wright sen­tenced him to seven months im­pris­on­ment, con­di­tion­ally sus­pended for nine months, and im­posed $1000 in fines.

Mr Hills-Wright said he had se­ri­ous con­cerns about the “un­pro­voked” na­ture of the as­sault, but was pre­pared to sus­pend Bell’s sen­tence be­cause of his young age, early plea of guilty, and lack of sim­i­lar con­vic­tions.

But he ex­pressed con­cerns about an ap­par­ent “pat­tern” of of­fend­ing.

Bell’s lawyer said at the time of the as­sault the for­mer brick­layer was un­em­ployed and liv­ing in Fre­man­tle, away from his mother’s house in Quinns Rocks, and was “strug­gling” as a re­sult. She said he was not a heavy drinker but had “re­sorted to al­co­hol”.

Mr Hills-Wright said in­tox­i­ca­tion was no ex­cuse.

“What I’m not hear­ing is any­thing close to an ex­pla­na­tion — al­co­hol aside — as to why you ran across the road and sprayed, with­out provo­ca­tion, a stranger, with what is a very de­bil­i­tat­ing and painful sub­stance,” he said. “That would have been a very painful ex­pe­ri­ence for that vic­tim.”

Mr Hills-Wright said im­pris­on­ment, al­beit sus­pended, was war­ranted to send a mes­sage of per­sonal and gen­eral de­ter­rence.

An­drew Casey Bell leaves Fre­man­tle Court after be­ing con­victed on Fri­day.

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