Party from hell: high price paid for fight, arson
A young father has paid a terrible price for a drunken New Year's Eve brawl on Moreton Island which saw a family's prized 1969 powerboat burned to a skeleton.
Christopher McGill, 34, removals manager, of Ipswich West, faced Brisbane District Court this morning on one count of stealing and one count of arson.
The uninsured Haines Hunter 23 belonging to Michael Bailey, valued at $34,000 to $38,000, was completely destroyed in the blaze.
Jacqui Malouf, for the Crown, told the court the boat was anchored by Bailey's group about 11.40pm on December 31, 2018, at Settler's Beach, Kooringal.
Shortly after Mr Bailey's friends and McGill's friends began arguing after someone call out: "Is that Daddy's boat?''
The fight broke up, but after midnight a fist fight broke out, with McGill and his friends left so bloodied they washed themselves in the ocean, Ms Malouf said.
A member of McGill's group then broke an aerial off the boat, removed items from the cabin and pulled up the anchor before leaving about 1.30am.
McGill also took four fishing rods and put them in a friend's car.
His partner then told him to leave as well but he lingered, after asking "for a light'', and set the boat on fire just before dawn.
"He's a mature man and should know better than to revenge crime,'' Ms Malouf said.
She said the defendant had made no attempt to pay restitution since he was charged on May 27, 2018, despite admitting to earning more than $75,000 a year as a manager for 1800 Removals.
However, defence counsel Gavin Webber said his client was genuinely remorseful and had made early guilty pleas to both charges.
He lost his job with 1800 Removals during the lockdown but recently had an offer of a job paying $150,000 a year and was happy to pay restitution.
Mr Webber said his client was the sole carer fir his nine-year-old son and had only a minor criminal history, in NSW and Queensland, for offences committed just after he broke up with his childhood sweetheart of 16 years.
"This was a revenge act, there's no getting around that,'' Mr Webber said.
"But my client tells me he was very intoxicated that night.
"He and his associates came off second best in the fight and that's the context in which he formed this intention to do what he did.
"It was entirely opportunistic. He did not go off to find accelerant and he did not stew on (the fight) for days and then do it.''
Judge Richard Jones said he took into account McGill's early pleas and minor criminal history and was satisfied he was genuinely remorseful.
He also took into account that the boat had drifted off and no people or property were at risk from the fire, and that there was no premeditation or attempt by McGill to hide what he had done.
He noted that McGill had sole care of his child but said arson was a serious offence, carrying a maximum of life in jail.
Justice Jones sentenced McGill to three years' jail for the arson, suspended after six months for three years.
He also sentenced him to one months' jail for the theft of the fishing rods, to be served concurrently.