Assault on ex brother-in-law over long-standing animosity

AN ASSAULT against his former brother-in-law almost led to one man with a bad criminal record for violence having to spend Christmas in prison.

Christopher Ronald Alan Lawton, 32, pleaded guilty on December 8 in Rockhampton District Court to one count of burglary and assault occasioning bodily harm.

Lawton had been handed a suspended prison term in Yeppoon Magistrates Court three months before the burglary and AOBH incident - a six-month prison term suspended for 18 months for burglary.

Crown prosecutor Tiffany Lawrence said Lawton attended the victim's Norman Gardens home, which he shared with his sister and former defacto partner of Lawton, on Valentine's Day 2019 about 4pm.

Lawton and his former partner, Melissa Flower, have four children together and he spent time with them on a weekly basis.

On the day of the assault, Lawton arrived at the house with four passengers who stayed in the car while Lawton approached the house.

The victim - Trent Flower - saw Lawton arrive and waved at him.

However, Lawton responded by shaking his head.

Lawton went to the front door and was met by Miss Flower's new partner, who was on the phone to Miss Flower at the time.

Miss Flower asked to talk to Lawton and her partner tried to hand the phone to him.

Lawton refused to take the phone and starting yelling at the partner, calling the new partner derogatory names.

Despite Lawton being right in his face, the new partner said he had no problem with him and respected him.

Lawton continued yelling in rage and told the new partner to go outside.

Lawton then looked past the new partner at Mr Flower, walked in to the house, advanced towards him and called him derogatory names.

Mr Flower told Lawton he did not want and problems and told him to leave.

Ms Lawrence said Lawton told Mr Flower to not "f--- me around".

She said Mr Flower again told him to leave and that his sister didn't want Lawton there.

"You're drunk. You shouldn't be here," Mr Flower told Lawton.

Ms Lawrence said Lawton got close to Mr Flower's face - about 15cms away from him.

She said Mr Flower turned to his left and walked to the kitchen when Lawton punched him in the right side jaw, causing it to fracture in two places.

Ms Lawrence said the new partner told Lawton to leave before Lawton and the new partner then engaged in a consensual fight.

She said the new partner managed to restrain Lawton and one of Lawton's passengers entered, saying it was time to leave.

Meanwhile, Miss Flower arrived in a taxi with her children. She left the children in the taxi while she spoke to Lawton, telling him to leave and asked what he was doing there.

Lawton's passenger again said they had to go and Lawton eventually left, shouting back at the house "I'll be back for you c---".

Mr Flower took a taxi to the Rockhampton Hospital and was flown to Brisbane due to the extent of his injuries - he had plates and screws inserted.

Police did not locate Lawton until September.

Defence barrister Maree Willey said Lawton and Miss Flower had been in a relationship for 10 years but broke up about two years ago.

She said Lawton and Mr Flower had animosity towards each other, with Lawton claiming Mr Flower tried to "come between" Lawton and Ms Flower while they were together.

Ms Willey said Lawton has worked in a casual position with Keppel Bay Projects for the past 13 years, and was planning to buy a block of land and build a house with his new partner who was in court in support.

She said Lawton had struggled with alcohol abuse at times due to stress, and sometimes marijuana, but had been working on those issues.

Judge Jeff Clarke said the punch to Mr Flower's jaw was either very lucky or a very heavy blow to cause such significant injuries.

He ordered Lawton to 18 months' prison, activated the Yeppoon Magistrates Court suspended sentence, and gave him immediate release on parole.

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