Matt Alexander Stephenson to be assessed for intensive corrections order for punch that left Ebo Whaleboat with fractured skull, permanent hearing loss

The victim Ebo Whaleboat.
The victim Ebo Whaleboat.

A MEREWETHER man who punched his mate in the head during a drunken argument, leaving him with a fractured skull and permanent hearing loss in one ear, looks set to avoid a jail term. 

Matt Alexander Stephenson, 30, of Merewether, and Ebo Whaleboat were arguing outside a house in Mitchell Street, Merewether, in the early hours of April 2 last year when Stephenson threw “the fateful punch”. 

Distressed and crying, Stephenson placed Mr Whaleboat in the recovery position and called triple-zero.

“Come on mate,” Stephenson said. “Get up you will be right. Come on get up. I’m so sorry.”

Mr Whaleboat was in a coma when he arrived at John Hunter Hospital and would remain that way for the next 72 hours. Meanwhile, Stephenson was driven to the hospital so he could hand himself into police. 

Stephenson, who was represented by barrister Peter Harper and solicitor Drew Hamilton in Newcastle Local Court on Friday, had pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless grievous bodily harm, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail. 

It was a “very difficult” sentencing exercise for Magistrate Robert Stone, who had to weigh up issues of denunciation, general deterrence and the long-term impact on the victim against Stephenson’s subjective factors. 

“I have determined that this is an appropriate matter for assessment for an intensive corrections order (ICO) having regard to the offender’s age, prior good background, remorse and ongoing full-time employment,” Mr Stone said.

Mr Stone adjourned the matter until June 29 so Stephenson could be assessed for an ICO, which is a form of custodial sentence served in the community.  

However, he said there was no guarantee he would take that course, warning Stephenson that if he was unsuitable he should be prepared to begin a jail term. 

If deemed suitable he will likely receive a 22-month intensive corrections order.