Retrial for jailed man whose girlfriend was set alight
A MAN who was jailed for 11 years for setting fire to his girlfriend will have a retrial after an appeal court found the trial judge's directions to the jury were inadequate.
Brae Taylor Lewis was found guilty in June last year of a malicious act with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to his girlfriend, Kyesha Finemore, then 17, at Marsden south of Brisbane.
Ms Finemore suffered serious burns to her neck, chest, abdomen, thigh and hands after Lewis threw petrol from a beer bottle, after flicking a lighter, and her clothing was set alight.
Ms Finemore was placed in an induced coma, had three rounds of surgery and spent almost a month in hospital.
Judge Michael Williamson, who sentenced Lewis, then 19, described his actions as a "callous and deliberate act''.
Lewis had also pleaded guilty to assault and assault occasioning bodily harm while armed with an offensive weapon, and sentenced to lesser terms of imprisonment.
However after Lewis appealed against his conviction on the charge of malicious act with intent, Court of Appeal judges unanimously set aside the jury verdict and today ordered a retrial.
The Crown prosecutor and the defence counsel had focused on the issue of intent.
The Crown argued that Lewis knew exactly what he was doing, after a pattern of escalating behaviour, and very little time had elapsed between the throwing of the petrol and use of the lighter.
The defence argued that Lewis, then 17, was doing no more than trying to make Ms Finemore go away and leave him alone, and had no intention to harm her.
It was claimed he had only made a threatening flick of the lighter, without appreciating the fumes between them could ignite.
The petrol landed on Ms Finemore's chest and abdomen, her clothing caught fire and she dropped to the ground, the court heard.
Lewis immediately attempted to smother the flames but Ms Finemore pushed him away and ran to the rear of the property.
In the Court of Appeal decision, Justice Martin Burns said the Crown case, to prove that Lewis intended to cause grievous bodily harm, rested substantially on circumstantial evidence.
Justice Burns said the available evidence, when taken as a whole, supported at least one reasonable hypothesis consistent with innocence, that Lewis intended to frighten Ms Finemore into leaving him alone.
If there was any reasonable hypothesis consistent with innocence, it was the jury's duty to acquit.
Justice Burns said Judge Williamson's summing up as a whole was inadequate and had led to a miscarriage of justice.