This morning at Byron Bay Courthouse Robert Stewart was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, with a minimal non-parole period of five months, for the bow-shooting attack which led to the death of his neighbour’s pet dog Bucket.
Bob Stewart, 60, was found guilty of cruelty offences after a two day trial in October of this year, following his deliberate shooting of the young Wolfhound-Malamute cross at South Golden Beach in December 2019.
Mr Stewart sat quietly as his sentence was read out.
There were no supporters or opponents in the courtroom, which was operating under COVID restrictions.
Magistrate Karen Stafford said she could have given the defendant two years, but took into account several late-arriving references, as well as the fact that Mr Stewart had got rid of his archery equipment, and was a long-standing member of the South Golden Beach community.
She noted that Bob Stewart was the primary carer of his sister, who has ongoing health issues.
While emphasising the seriousness and cruelty of his offence, Magistrate Stafford said Mr Stewart had been of good character over the last twelve months, and said his earlier criminal offences (drink driving and cannabis cultivation) were relatively minor and took place many years ago.
Magistrate Stafford accepted the references of his GP and others that he had been remorseful about the dog’s death, and had been a hard and continuous worker until he had retired as a builder, as well as spending years caring for his mother, and acting as a de-facto grandfather.
However she reminded the court that Bob Stewart’s character referees had not heard the evidence she’d heard about his behaviour towards his neighbours.
Speaking for the prosecution, Sergeant Alix Thom told the court that Mr Stewart’s actions had caused negative long term effects for many people living in his street, particularly dog-owners, who had spent many years unable to socialise normally as a result.
Bob Stewart’s lawyer John Weller acknowledged the severity of his client’s offence, but emphasised it was not a random or premeditated act of violence, but a response to a perceived threat.
Magistrate Stafford spoke about Mr Stewart’s ‘simmering anger’ which had led to Bucket’s death, but said she thought the ’emotionally charged atmosphere’ of the street in South Golden Beach had now been dealt with.
She agreed Mr Stewart was unlikely to re-offend, and noted that he had obeyed multiple AVOs which had been taken out by his neighbours since the bow-shooting incident.
Bucket’s owner Kris Thompson asked for additional compensation of $637.20 for vet bills relating to the death of his dog, which was ordered.
In handing down sentence, Magistrate Stafford said Mr Stewart would be eligible for parole in May 2021. Bob Stewart was escorted from the courthouse by four sheriffs of the court.