New Year’s Eve. The one day of the year that almost every country celebrates the passing of time and every person stops to re-evaluate the last 12 months. They laugh about the good, cry about the bad and become excited about the possibilities ahead. In 2009 I was no exception. I had the world at my feet – until my world shattered beneath me.

Amee Meredith with husband Brett, before the attack

I was working as the Officer in Charge of Minyerri Police Station, based in the Minyerri Aboriginal Community in the Northern Territory. My husband, Brett, and I had transferred to the Northern Territory Police from NSW with our three children. We were based at Katherine, Brett being a Sergeant himself, and I had moved to Minyerri temporarily as part of the Government intervention.

I travelled back to Katherine on New Year’s Eve to see my family and also stock up on local supplies. I recall asking Brett what his plans were for the night, since he wasn’t working, and he replied by saying that he was taking the children for dinner and having an early night. I laughed, saying that it was New Year’s Eve and he should go out and have fun. I regret those words every day.

Brett did go out. He took my advice and enjoyed the night with friends. Until, for reasons unknown, he was approached by Michael Martyn.

A little after 3am on New Year’s Day I received a phone call to say that Brett had been involved in a fight. He was unconscious and the ambulance personnel needed to know his medical history. At first I was confused, and then I was angry. I was angry at Brett for going out, getting in a fight and leaving my Dad to care for our children whilst he was being stitched up. The thought of anything more serious than that never crossed my mind. I made the decision to drive back to Katherine in the early hours of the morning and went straight to the hospital.

Brett was lying in the bed, intubated and in an induced coma. I was told that he had been punched once to the face and he had fallen back, hitting his head on the concrete floor. As a result he had suffered a fracture to the skull. The fracture itself was large and Brett was completely non-responsive.

We were flown to Darwin Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. I had no idea what to do or what to expect.

Brett had suffered bleeding to the brain and his brain was continuing to swell. The doctors were having trouble controlling the swelling and where the blood had formed a clot, the functions of that part of the brain ceased to work. They needed to remove part of his brain and also remove his skull so the brain could swell. All of this because of one punch – one senseless punch.

Brett’s condition never improved. As a family we decided to remove his life support and I laid on his chest, listened to his heart stop, and said goodbye. He was gone.

Michael Martyn had been arrested shortly after the incident and was charged with manslaughter. CCTV was captured inside the night club which showed Martyn approach Brett and an argument ensued. The situation quickly escalated and Martyn pushed Brett to the floor. When Brett got up, he became distracted by other patrons.

It was then Martyn came from behind another and punched Brett once in the face, knocking him out on his feet and causing him to fall undefended onto the ground. One punch. The only punch thrown throughout the incident and thrown when Brett was not even looking.

Martyn pleaded not guilty and the criminal proceedings commenced. This started with an oral committal held in Katherine and included numerous witnesses. Brett’s mother and I sat through every day of evidence, listening to the relatives and friends of Martyn accusing Brett of instigating a fight, and not being able to have a voice.

I had seen the footage and I knew the truth. Yet as a victim, it felt like the trial was all about the defendant. Brett was gone – out of sight, out of mind. In this case there was no “two sides to every story” because one side had been silenced.

At the conclusion of the committal, Martyn was committed to stand trial for manslaughter. Once again, Brett’s family and I sat through days of finger pointing, days of graphic images and the replaying of the video footage. And in the end, Martyn was convicted of manslaughter. He was initially sentenced to three years and eight months with a non-parole period of one year and ten months. This was for manslaughter – for taking another life and leaving three children without a father. This sentence was appealed but only increased to five years imprisonment, with a non-parole period of two years and six months. I felt defeated.

I am now fighting to have new legislation implemented in the Northern Territory. This legislation specifically deals with unlawful assaults causing death. It is my belief that if you decide to unlawfully assault a person, and that person dies, then you are guilty – simple as that. The prosecution should not have to prove that you were reckless or negligent. They should not have to prove it wasn’t an accident. If someone decides to throw the punch, then they need to know they will be punished.

If this legislation was in place at the time of Brett’s death, based on the CCTV footage obtained, then I can’t see how a not guilty plea could have been entered. This legislation will help to stop families having to endure a criminal trial, and bring closure much sooner.

Martyn was found guilty in June 2010, almost 18 months after the incident occurred. It is also my hope that this legislation will act as a deterrent to anyone who may think about engaging in senseless violence – because life is too precious and we need to live it whilst we can.

Amee Meredith is campaigning to introduce a specific crime of “one-punch homicide,” after her husband Brett was killed in an assault in 2010. Amee will appear on SBS’s Insight program tonight at 8.30pm on SBS ONE.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST.

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23 comments

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    • Greg says:

      12:03pm | 21/08/12

      Unfortunately this won’t be a deterrent to the idiots who do these kinds of things.  The jacked up thugs who go out looking for fights and those who punch anyone who looks at them the wrong way.

      The only benefit to this law will be the hopeful increase to sentences to be somewhat inline with what the public expects.

    • M says:

      12:42pm | 21/08/12

      I believe we need to make violence as socially unacceptable as drink driving, smoking, and speeding.

    • Greg says:

      01:15pm | 21/08/12

      Drink driving, smoking and speeding are socially unacceptable yet there are still plenty of idiots who indulge in all 3 the same will happen with this law.

      At least the jail terms will start to give some small semblance of solace to the families though

    • impossible soul says:

      01:49pm | 21/08/12

      M, I disagree. I think drink driving, smoking and speeding is already generally a lot more socially acceptable than violence. I’d hazard a bet that more people would more readily engage in any (or all) of those before violence.

    • Anjuli says:

      12:27pm | 21/08/12

      I have always said if the person wasn’t punched then he would not have died ,it is not the pavements fault that these people hit their heads .Hope she is successful in getting this law changed these perpetrators should not be let of for them to do it again.

    • Lloyd says:

      12:29pm | 21/08/12

      It is outrageous. I am sure he didn’t intend to kill your husband, but as you say, do the crime, do the time. The latest tragedy with Thomas Kelly has been well publicised: any man now knows that as cliched as it is, one punch really CAN kill. As well as jail, he should be made to do mandatory community service in a brain injury ward.

    • Rolfey says:

      12:32pm | 21/08/12

      Keep fighting the fight Amee. I still can’t believe what happened to Brett and everything with the court case afterwards…
      Stay strong mate - Rolfey

    • Amee says:

      07:46pm | 21/08/12

      Thanks Rolfey xx

    • Simon says:

      12:57pm | 21/08/12

      There is a tendancy to understimate the amout of forethought that goes into these attacks.  Many will go out with the intention of causing a fight.  I know this because I’ve associated with them in the past.

      I think heavier sentences WILL act as some sort of deterrent.  Thugs act wrecklessly because they are aware the risk to them personally, is minimal.  Even in the worst case scenario such as this, they serve a year a half in prison.  Considering the degree of the crime it’s a slap on the wrist.

      Fully supportive of what you are trying to do Amee.  All the best.

    • M says:

      01:09pm | 21/08/12

      Sorry Amee, but I believe we should have more rigorous enforcement of our current laws rather than introducing knee jerk legislation.

    • Ben C says:

      02:03pm | 21/08/12

      Agree, M.

      Amee, you should direct your energy into lobbying for magistrates and judges to deliver sentences that are worthy of the crime. We already have the laws in place, we just need the judges to enforce them.

    • 1 Punch Kills says:

      06:33pm | 21/08/12

      Hi M,
      The laws are, in fact, unrelentlessly enforced by the police. The police do an amazing job and often feel let down by the court process and decisions made by Magistrates/Judges who are too far removed from society or who are bound by weak legislation. Public opinion, police, and prosecutors do their part yet here is a breakdown when it comes for a tough decision; our politicians and the people presiding over the matter in court are letting the community down. Furthermore, this proposed legislation isn’t a knee-jerk reaction. Too many people have being killed since Brett Meredith died, and too many offenders have not been dealt with in a manner that reflects society’s values. Brett was killed by a big, gorilla-of-a-man in a small, jungle-of-a-town. How many more lives need to be shattered before our politicians, judges, and people like you realise this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

    • Luthien Nienna says:

      01:12pm | 21/08/12

      Thank you for sharing your story Amee. I am so sorry for your loss, and wish you and your children the very best for the future.

    • AJ of Here says:

      01:38pm | 21/08/12

      There is no deterrent not because the laws are weak but because the JUDGES are activists. A charge of manslaughter has a maximum term of 20 years. What did the tool get? 3.

      You can have all of the legislations you want, but if the activists won’t use them, then they are all meaningless. Any campaign against violence and stronger sentences would be better off being directed at removing the activists from the benches and replacing them with good, solid, upstanding people who are willing to uphold the law and not their individual pet causes.

    • Dave Charlesworth says:

      04:57pm | 21/08/12

      Well said AJ. This is the problem.

    • Amee says:

      07:44pm | 21/08/12

      AJ of Here - I agree. I am also campaigning for an awareness campaign and hopefully we will receive funding soon

    • It's good night from him says:

      05:01pm | 21/08/12

      Alcohol = Violence

      If society wants to end 95% of violence, remove the grog from people who can’t handle it, impose curfews, and harden the f**k up re the sentences of the offenders!!

    • Ricey says:

      06:09pm | 21/08/12

      Cut the perp’s hand off.  That will stop re-offending.

    • ryan says:

      06:56pm | 21/08/12

      It really sounds like the guy who dies was not only the instigator, but the aggressor in the entire situation.  He deserved to get punched, though probably not to die.

    • Amee says:

      07:41pm | 21/08/12

      Ryan - Im sorry but I dont agree with your comment. Not because he was my husband, but because I have seen the footage and I have heard the witnesses first hand. If you re-read the remarks the Judge makes comment that witnesses stated Brett appeared to be angry. Whilst this is true - Brett definitely seemed agitated, what people fail to remember by reading these comments is that Martyn - the defendant - approaches Brett first and says something to him. Brett had his back to Martyn the whole time. The footage shows Martyn pull away from his group and approach Brett. Evidence was given that at this time, Martyn had been informed Brett was a police officer. What he said has never been known. But it did cause Brett to react. Words were spoken between them both but at no time did Brett raise a fist. It also says that Brett was described as being angry and agitated. Out of at least 30 witnesses, all of whom were intoxicated being New Years Eve and all of who could not hear any conversations due to music, at least 95% of them were family and friends of Martyns and most of them did not see Martyn approach Brett first. Unfortunately that was the way it went for us. When Brett was pushed to the floor, he got up and a lot of people came at him, and Brett pushed them away. Again at no stage did he raise a fist. But when I read your comment, “He deserved to get punch’ I ask you, did you read the circumstances surrounding the punch? It clearly states that Brett was undefended, not even looking at Martyn when he was hit. He was engaged with other people and the judge labelled the punch, “opportunistic and calculated” and it was a ‘deliberate and intended knock-down punch”. Martyn was aware that Brett would not be able to defend himself. Nobody deserves to be punched in that manner, nobody. Thank you, Amee

    • Ricey says:

      07:47pm | 21/08/12

      How do you figure that?  Maybe you need to re-read it.  The perp went up to Brett, they have an argument, he pushes Brett to the ground, as Brett gets up the perp comes from behind and he hits Brett in the face.  Not sure how you figure Brett was the perp in that situation.

    • Amee Meredith says:

      07:49pm | 21/08/12

      I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for their comments and support. We will continue the fight to make the change - and if one persons life is saved because of our fight, then that is enough xx

 

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