A TERRIFYING chain of events that took place in Leongatha in April last year has been described in detail at a hearing at the Latrobe Valley County Court, resulting in a seven year jail sentence for the 21-year-old offender.
Jesse Proctor of Drouin will serve a minimum of four years behind bars before being eligible for parole, following his appearance before His Honour Judge Howard Mason at Morwell last Wednesday.
Proctor was sentenced for a string of offences committed across Gippsland in March and April last year, including multiple thefts, burglary, property damage, aggravated carjacking, attempted carjacking, trespass, conduct endangering life, and dangerous driving whilst being pursued by police.
According to His Honour, Proctor embarked on a four-week “crime spree” on March 14, 2018, just 12 days after appearing in court to receive a 13-month community corrections order for aggravated burglary and other violence, dishonesty and drug offences.
Offences committed during the latest “spree” included stealing multiple cars, as well as number plates and petrol in numerous locations across the Latrobe Valley.
Judge Mason also told the court how Proctor had broken into several homes, sheds, garages and a caravan in the same area to steal items including jewellery, bank cards, power tools and shotgun ammunition.
But the most serious offending occurred on Monday, April 9, when Proctor – a disqualified driver on the run from police that had spotted him driving a stolen car with stolen plates through Warragul – crashed into two parked cars in McCartin Street, Leongatha.
It set off a chain of events that left multiple victims “traumatised” and experiencing “protracted emotional reactions such as anxiety and hypervigilance, sleeplessness, fear and loss of trust,” as well as physical injuries, Judge Mason said.
After the car Proctor had been driving and the two parked cars caught fire following the crash at about 9.25am, and a passer-by stopped to pull Proctor from the burning car, he set about flagging down passing motorists in an attempt to steal another car to flee the scene.
Proctor first flagged down a woman driving a white Saab along McCartin Street up the hill towards the centre of town.
The woman stopped the car as Proctor ran towards her with his hands up.
He then jumped into the passenger side of the vehicle, yelling at the woman to “drive, drive, drive.”
When the woman told Proctor to “calm down,” he responded “I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you,” and continued to yell at her, before trying to “climb over her and push her out of the car” so that he could drive.
The woman grabbed her car key and handbag and exited through the driver’s side door.
Proctor exited the vehicle and ran after the woman, repeatedly shouting, “Where’s the key? I’ll kill you.”
He then grabbed the woman’s handbag and threw various items out onto the street, as the woman hid behind a car on the other side of the road.
Failing to find the woman’s car key, Proctor proceeded to a white ute that was passing and attempted to gain access to it, before running further south down McCartin street towards Young Street.
It was there that Proctor flagged down another female motorist, approaching Leongatha from Inverloch along the Bass Highway/McCartin Street in a Volkswagen with her two children, aged one and four, in the back seat.
When the woman slowed down upon approaching the scene of the burning cars, Proctor jumped through the passenger side window and onto the passenger seat, saying to the woman: “Just drive. Get me out of here. I was in the burning car.”
The woman drove down Young Street and pulled over about half way down.
Her children were “hysterical” in the back seat as Proctor yelled at the woman “Hurry up or I’m going to stab you.”
The woman pleaded with Proctor as she drove, saying “you can take the car, just let me and the kids go”.
As Proctor started to push the woman out of the car, she resisted because she wanted to get the kids out of the car.
Proctor then punched the woman “five to six times” to the left side of her head and to the left side of her face as she was yelling that she “wouldn’t get out without the kids”.
The woman grabbed the car keys out of the ignition and threw them onto the road. Both the driver and Proctor exited the vehicle.
Proctor grabbed the woman by the left shoulder, turned her around to face him and asked “where are the keys?”.
Proctor indecently assaulted the woman while she yelled several times that the keys were in the middle of the road.
The woman got the kids out of the car, ran to the footpath with them and waved down a passing vehicle, the driver of which assisted her and called triple zero, as Proctor drove off in the Volkswagen.
The woman, who was treated by an ambulance at the scene before being taken to Leongatha Hospital, suffered bruising and swelling to her left eye, pain to her jaw and neck, a scratch and bruise to her left shoulder and bruising to her left forearm.
After fleeing Leongatha in the Volkswagen, Proctor drove east along the South Gippsland Highway, through the towns of Foster and Toora in a manner described as “erratic” and “unstable,” reaching speeds of up to 203km/h, frequently driving on the wrong side of the road, and coming dangerously close to head on collisions with at least two other motorists.
After damaging the Volkswagen driving over stop sticks deployed by the police, and then crashing into the boundary fence of a farm property, Proctor stole another vehicle from the property’s driveway and drove towards Hedley whilst being pursued by the police air wing.
Driving through the paddocks of several farms, Proctor damaged fences and gates while disrupting livestock, before driving into the West Alberton State Forest, where he abandoned the stolen vehicle and fled on foot to a nearby residence.
Patrolling police arrested Proctor in the kitchen of the residence at around 12.54pm, and upon searching him, found he was carrying the modified handle to a pair of scissors, classified under the law as a “dangerous article”.
Proctor was remanded in custody, where he remained until last week’s sentencing hearing.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Mason described Proctor’s offending as “appalling”.
“Your criminal conduct resulted in there being a considerable number of victims who have had their lives seriously damaged by the impact of your appalling acts,” Judge Mason said.
“Members of the community were deprived of their property, terrified by the carjacking incidents and faced possible death or serious injury by your driving.
“The offending occurred in the context of a long history of past offending and commenced within two weeks of you having been released from jail after serving a previous sentence and practically immediately after you’d been sentenced to a 13-month community corrections order.”
Judge Mason also detailed Proctor’s “disadvantaged early life,” including appearances in court for numerous violence and dishonesty offences and dependence on the drug ice from age 12.
He said he’d considered several “mitigating factors” in deciding the sentence, including Proctor’s youthfulness, chronic history and daily dependence on illicit drugs, psychological disorders and mild acquired brain injury, capacity for insight, regret and remorse whilst and when not adversely affected by drugs, and his ability to positively engage with elders and at a County Koori Court Hearing in January 2019.
“In light of the very serious circumstances of this offending, mitigating features such as your youth and your personal circumstances including your mental health must give way in balance to principles of denunciation, punishment and specific as well as general deterrence,” Judge Mason said.
“While your prospects of rehabilitation quite rationally remain bleak, they are not without a basis for hope.
“You have shown commendable acts towards rehabilitation whilst in custody and there is evidence that you do actually want to be reformed,” he said.