By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A brave, elderly woman was the only onlooker who stared down a bus commuter who repeatedly punched a man into unconsciousness at Dandenong railway station, a County Court of Victoria judge has noted.
Paul Ross, 34, who pleaded guilty to intentionally causing injury, at the time swore back at the courageous woman in her 70s on the morning of 27 April.
He then continued to berate his victim.
“That’s what you get for mouthing off,” Ross told the motionless man.
“You’re f***ing knocked out.”
But it was the old woman’s intervention that caused Ross to stop his “serious and brutal assault”, Judge Meryl Sexton said during sentencing on 13 February.
Judge Sexton said the woman showed “extraordinary courage” by directly approached Ross within striking distance to tell him to stop.
Ross had earlier ignored a bus driver, who pulled up metres from the incident and blasted the bus’s horn.
Most witnesses did nothing but attempt to get away from the scene, Judge Sexton said.
“I’m satisfied that they didn’t approach you because of the fierce nature of your attack which caused them to be scared for their own safety.”
Some stayed perhaps to film the incident on their phone, while two people alerted train authorities with “little success”, the judge said.
Ross had described himself as “amped up” at the time, annoyed that his car had broken down that morning and he’d be late to work in catching a bus.
“It was not the victim’s day,” he later told police.
Ross admitted that he knew he might get in a fight because he “knew what Dandenong is like” and didn’t like people staring at him.
The victim, who had a history of schizophrenia and was unknown to Ross, approached the accused on the station steps and appeared to stand over him.
Ross then walked away despite the victim “yapping” at him, Judge Sexton said.
At the bus stop, the victim again walked towards Ross, who described himself as going into “hunting mode”.
He dropped his backpack and punched the approaching victim to the head.
The victim fell backwards onto an elderly man’s shopping jeep and then onto the kerb.
Before the victim got up, Ross punched him at least 15 times to the head and body, Judge Sexton said.
Ross dragged the victim onto the footpath, punched him at least two more times and let the unconscious man roll back onto the road in front of a stationary bus.
The accused then yelled and gesticulated at the man, who spent three days in hospital intensive care with severe concussion.
Judge Sexton said Ross had used his “boxing skills” many times to hit the victim “as hard as you can”, intending to knock him unconscious and continuing even when he knew his victim was out.
The judge took into account Ross’s remorse, early plea of guilty and “considerable” rehabilitative efforts, such as anger management courses and counselling.
Ross’s long-standing depressive and anxiety-related symptoms didn’t diminish his culpability, she said. Though not calm at the time, he was sufficiently aware of his wrongfulness.
Judge Sexton said she had no alternative but to jail Ross, given he’d been found guilty of an unprovoked assault in 2013.
“This assault is simply too serious and deserves denunciation.”
Ross was jailed for eight months, followed by a two-year community corrections order with judicial monitoring and mental health treatment.