George Habkouk an 'unacceptable risk' to community, magistrate finds

Punch: Haydn Butcher, 31, died of head injuries after a one-punch incident outside a hotel at The Entrance on New Year's Day. Facebook.

Punch: Haydn Butcher, 31, died of head injuries after a one-punch incident outside a hotel at The Entrance on New Year's Day. Facebook.

GEORGE Habkouk is “a man with strong family values” who is also an “unacceptable risk” to the community after he was charged following a fatal one-punch incident at The Entrance in the early hours of New Year’s Day, a court has heard.

Wyong Local Court magistrate Karen Robinson declined a bail application by Mr Habkouk, 49, of Bateau Bay, after police argued he represented a flight risk following the death of Haydn Butcher, 31, outside the Lakes Hotel.

Ms Robinson described Mr Butcher’s death as tragic, after the court heard he “stiff-armed” one of Mr Habkouk’s female employees outside the hotel only seconds before Mr Habkouk ran 20 metres “in defence of the woman”, leading to an incident between the two men that resulted in Mr Butcher’s death.

While Mr Habkouk had strong ties to the community, was in a stable relationship with four children and had established businesses, “this is a matter that has resulted in the death of a man”, Ms Robinson said.

Mr Habkouk faces “a significant term of imprisonment if found guilty” of assault causing the death of Mr Butcher, Ms Robinson said.

“It is a reasonably strong prosecution case,” she said.

During the bail hearing on Monday Mr Habkouk’s barrister John Korn told the court Mr Habkouk and employees of his pizza business at The Entrance left their workplace at 11.30pm to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

He said Mr Habkouk’s female employee was the victim of an unprovoked assault by a person inside the Lakes Hotel about an hour into the new year. The person who assaulted the female employee and Mr Habkouk’s party were asked to leave, although there was “no suggestion of any ill conduct on the part of my client”, Mr Korn said.

He told the court the female employee ran after the unidentified man after they left the hotel and “for reasons that are mystifying”, Mr Butcher raised his arm in her path and “stiff-armed” her.

Mr Butcher was not involved in the incident inside the hotel.

Mr Habkouk’s “conduct is to immediately go in defence of” his employee and he “punches him once”, Mr Korn told Wyong Local Court magistrate Karen Robinson during the bail hearing.

Mr Butcher fell heavily to the ground and died the following day of head injuries.

Mr Habkouk was charged with assault causing the death of Mr Butcher and has been in custody at Cessnock since shortly after the incident. He appeared calm on an audio-visual link from the correction centre and waved to his partner and family members sitting in the court.

Police opposed Mr Habkouk’s application for bail, saying he was “ejected from the hotel and runs 20 metres to the victim”. He had a previous assault conviction in 1994 and a fail to appear in court on his record.

Police told the court Mr Habkouk was a flight risk.

Mr Korn said his client had run three businesses with his partner in The Entrance for 13 years, and they had raised four children.

His parents were prepared to post their Sydney home, valued at up to $1 million, as security, he told the court.

Mr Korn said the 1994 assault conviction was “at the lowest end of the scale” and there was “nothing to suggest my client has a propensity for violence”.

“Alcohol is not going to be a feature of this case. We are confident of that,” he told the court.

Mr Korn said his client had attempted to render assistance to Mr Butcher after the punch incident but was urged by bystanders to leave the area “for fear of reprisals”.

Feelings were “still running high in the local community” in the week after Mr Butcher’s death.

The matter has been adjourned to March.