COURT; SHOCKING PEPPER SPRAY ASSAULT
‘UNPROVOKED, UNEXPLAINED’ ASSAULT ON A STRANGER
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.