Custody battle starts ’atrocious’ chase with children in car
A CHILD custody dispute ended up in a dangerous car chase on a remote highway on the Northern Rivers on Australia Day weekend, a court heard.
Six members of the public called police to report the dangerous game of cat and mouse played by cars carrying children.
A 26-year-old Gold Coast man together with his 77-year-old grandfather and his 35-year-old half-brother, fronted Tweed Heads Local Court on November 16 to plead guilty to a total of 10 charges.
The three men, who legally cannot be identified to protect the identity of the child, hired security guards to assist in taking back the 26-year-old's son from his estranged wife who took the boy from Nerang to Northern NSW.
When that plan failed, the three men allegedly pursued the estranged wife, her friend and her mother in their car in a dangerous manner.
According to allegations contained in court documents, the 26-year-old and his wife had separated almost a year before the incident and the couple's three-year-old son lived with his father.
Affidavits tendered to the court said no parenting orders were in place and the pair had an informal arrangement that the visited her son while supervised by a family member of the father.
While meeting at Nerang McDonalds to see her son for his birthday on January 21 2019, the mother brought three women with her who helped block the supervisor while she took her three-year-old son and drove away, affidavits tendered to the court said.
The 26-year-old and his family went to their lawyer to get a recovery order for the child however they were told it would take at least a month for the federal circuit court to hear the case.
The three men found out the mother would be picking up her other children from a previous relationship and hatched a plan to retrieve the boy on January 25, 2019.
They hired security guards to be at the exchange to grab the three-year-old from the car when the wife arrived to get her other children.
However, the three-year old was not in the car the mother arrived in and instead was being driven in a separate car by the estranged wife's mother.
The men followed the cars to a rest stop where they were seen by the estranged wife's party, who drove away.
The 77-year-old grandfather, great-grandfather of the child, was behind the wheel of a white hatch back when he drove over double white and pulled in front of the car holding the three-year-old boy.
The grandfather braked trying to force the other car to stop, causing the driver to take evasive action to avoid an accident.
Police say the grandfather continued to try and force the other car off the road and was caught on video driving dangerously.
Six other people called triple 0 after witnessing the dangerous driving on the highway.
The 35-year-old half brother of the boy's father was also caught on video throwing a can at the car containing the three-year-old.
The deadly game of cat and mouse continued until finally the grandfather stopped his car in front of them and caused the cars to come to a halt.
The half-brother got out and punched the windscreen of the car with the boy in it, causing it to break and the boy's father punched the driver's side window with something in his hand, scratching it.
The car managed to drive off before the grandfather began once again driving dangerously trying to get the cars to stop.
Four other cars had to take evasive action to avoid hitting the grandfather's car on a blind corner before police arrived.
The 26-year-old father pleaded guilty to two counts of intimidation and damaging property.
The 35-year-old half brother pleaded guilty to two counts of intimidation, damaging property and intentionally throw object at vehicle.
The 77-year-old grandfather pleaded guilty to two counts of intimidation and driving dangerously.
Defence barrister Michael Campbell, who represented all three men, described the facts of the case as "atrocious".
Mr Campbell tendered affidavits from friends of the 26-year-old referencing alleged poor behaviour by his estranged wife when it came to looking after her children.
He used this to try and offer an explanation about why the offenders felt they had no choice but to act this way to keep the three-year-old from being allegedly neglected.
The court heard the 77-year-old, a self-funded retiree, had character references from his charity and community work as well as State Member Ted Sorensen.
A psychologist report said the grandfather was motivated by his role as the patriarch of his family and by fear something should happen to his great-grandson.
In written submissions to the court, 26-year-old's lawyer said the spare parts industry worker was remorseful and had apologised to the officers involved.
"He felt it was a safe plan trusting the security guards to handle the situation which meant him and his family did not need to confront (the mother)," the submissions said.
Magistrate Michael Dakin described the 35-year-old's involvement, who is a father-of-three working as a boat repairer, as "designed to do nothing else but terrorise".
Mr Dakin said all three men's behaviour was "completely reprehensive".
"Taking the law into own hands will not be tolerated," he said.
"Did you ever stop to think about the effect on your son would be?"
All three men were convicted and received two year community corrections orders for their charges, the grandfather also lost his licence for 12 months.