ZACHARY Buxton was up against it before he was even born.
His mother was a heavy drug and alcohol user during her pregnancy in 1988.
His father introduced him to cannabis when he was five, and the boy was a daily user by the age of 10. He started using amphetamines daily when he was 11, and was a daily heroin user when he hit adolescence at 13.
At 5.30pm on Anzac Day, 2014 when Buxton confronted two women on Beaumont Street, Hamilton, produced a knife and said “Bags, ladies, please”, the 25-year-old had been in and out of jail and juvenile detention for a decade, and had an appalling criminal record.
But the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal on Monday quashed a Newcastle District Court judge’s maximum jail sentence of nine years and five months for the crime and imposed a maximum sentence of six years and five months jail term, after ruling the original sentence was manifestly excessive.
Two of the three appeal court judges found the District Court judge’s sentence overstated the seriousness of the Hamilton offence and gave insufficient regard to Buxton’s background, including that his adult illicit drug use stemmed from being given cannabis by his father at just five, and more serious drugs from 11.
The nine year and five month sentence was generally reserved for more serious offences armed robbery offences by people with criminal backgrounds similar to Buxton’s, Court of Criminal Appeal Justices Tom Bathurst and Michael Walton found.
Buxton was wearing a black hooded jumper when he approached the women, and produced a 15-20cm long knife when he was about a metre from them.
One of the women ran across the road screaming “Help” while the other threw her bag at Buxton before she also ran across the road.
Three men chased Buxton who dropped the woman’s bag and ran off. He was later picked up by police and charged. He was on parole when he attempted the bag-snatching, after three years’ jail for an aggravated robbery on a train in which a man was stabbed in the stomach.
The court heard Buxton started offending when he was 15, and had three armed robbery convictions on his record.
He also had serious drug-related mental health issues and posed a “significant risk to the community” because of an inability to understand his hopes of living a “lawful lifestyle” was not possible because of a cycle of illicit drug use and criminal offences.
During sentencing in 2015 Newcastle District Court Judge Peter Berman said both Buxton and the community would benefit if he gave up his “life of drugs”.
Justices Bathurst and Walton said it was significant that Buxton was introduced to drugs at just five years of age and experienced significant emotional neglect as a child.
Buxton’s earliest release date is April, 2018.