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Harley Hicks seeks shorter sentence over murder of baby Zayden Veal-Whitting

Legal Aid has funded an ­attempt to cut the 32-year jail sentence of baby killer Harley Hicks so he doesn’t feel ­“utterly helpless”.
Hicks beat 10-month-old Zayden Veal-Whitting to death in his cot with a copper-wire baton while high on ice during a June 2012 burglary.
He will learn on Wednesday at the Victorian Court of Appeal, sitting in Bendigo, if his bid is successful.
His lawyers claimed his jail term was “manifestly excessive”, saying his crime was not as heinous as other child killings as it was not premeditated, nor an act of revenge.
Zayden’s grieving mum, Casey Veal, slammed the decision to fund Hicks’ appeal as a “waste of taxpayers’ money”, saying it could be far better used on deserving Victorians.
“They said in court he (Hicks) will be in his 50s when he gets out. My son never saw his first birthday. He’ll never have the chance to have a girlfriend or get married,” she said.
She is raising cash for a playground in Zayden’s memory.
Victorian Legal Aid’s funding of the appeal comes on top of tens of thousands of dollars used on legal fees at Hicks’ trial.
A Legal Aid spokesman said the body was prohibited from revealing information about anybody who had applied for funding, but it was the job of the organisation to “fund the representation of people charged with serious crimes and to make sure they are fairly treated by the justice system and our decisions must be made objectively”.
New changes to the appeals process come into effect in early March following a review published late last year.
“There will be tighter rules on appeals which go straight to hearing stage and appeals which claim that the sentence is manifestly excessive as the main reason,” he said.
But he said the changes weren’t backdated, and there would still be some appeals that had funding approved in 2014 that would be heard by the Court this year.
A spokeswoman for Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula acknowledged Legal Aid had promised to implement tighter scrutiny on funding for criminal appeals.
“We look forward to the VLA’s assessment of those new guidelines after they are implemented in March,” she said.
On Tuesday, Hicks was compared to child-murderers Arthur Freeman and Robert Farquharson in a bid to reduce his 32-year jail term.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Kaye described Hicks’ actions as “totally and utterly evil” in handing down the non-parole period after a jury found the 21-year-old guilty of murder in April last year.

Harley Hicks outside the court in 2014.

But barrister David Hallowes, acting for Hicks, told the Court of Appeal in Bendigo on Tuesday morning his client’s sentence should be reduced because of his age, his traumatic upbringing, and because the killing was “spontaneous and impulsive” rather than planned.
He also said there was an “absence of features of vengeance and premeditation that attend the comparable cases where children are victims of murder”.
Mr Hallowes said Freeman, who threw his daughter over the West Gate Bridge, and Farquharson, who drove his sons into a dam, had committed more heinous acts because they had planned acts of revenge.
“We say that is worse,” he said.
Both men, who were far older than Hicks when sentenced, were given similar sentences to the younger criminal for their acts.
But barrister Susan Borg, for the DPP, said Hicks’ actions were worse because it was a “cold, calculated killing of a baby for no apparent reason”.
Ms Borg said Hicks, who was absent from the courtroom, used a homemade baton to strike Zayden 33 times while the infant lay in his cot.
“When he is confronted with a child that is no threat to him at all, he used it on that child. Not once, not twice, but 33 times,” she said.
Zayden’s mother is traumatised by the grisly discovery of her battered and bloodied child under a blanket on the morning of June 15, 2012.
Hicks pleaded not guilty the murder and claimed he was never in the house.
Ms Veal sat calmly with family and friends towards the back of the packed courtroom on Tuesday.
His mother and brothers, including twin Ashley Hicks, sat in court behind Mr Hallowes during the Bendigo hearing.
Mr Hallowes also claimed that Justice Kaye aggravated the sentence upon finding there had been an absence of remorse.
During his sentencing remarks Justice Kaye said: “During the trial I took the opportunity to observe you in the dock. At no stage of the trial could I detect from you any sign of remorse.”
Mr Hallowes argued Hicks’ demeanour had never been raised during the plea hearing.
“Had it been raised, there may have been appropriate explanations given for the various affects over the course of the trial.
For example, evidence was put on the plea that the applicant was taking various forms of psychiatric medication during the case,” he said.
Hicks will be at least 52 by the time he is eligible for release.
A judgment will be handed down at 10am Wednesday.

www.news.com.au (10-2-2015)

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‘Utterly evil’ killer Harley Hicks appeals against 32-year jail sentence

A baby killer who bludgeoned a 10-month-old boy to death is appealing against his 32-year jail sentence.
Harley Hicks, 21, was given life in prison for the cold-blooded murder of Zayden Veal-Whitting as he slept in his cot.
The lengthy sentence was handed down by Justice Stephen Kaye in the Bendigo Supreme Court on June 13.
Hicks used a makeshift baton crafted out of copper wire and electrical tape to rain blows upon Zayden during a drug-addled burglary spree in the early hours of June 15, 2012.
Justice Kaye said during the sentencing that Hicks had committed an act of “unmitigated evil”.
“It is almost unthinkable that any human being could have carried out the sickening crime that you have committed. What you did was totally and utterly evil,” he said.
Hicks yesterday appealed against his minimum 32-year sentence on the grounds that it was excessive because of his age, the risks to him in custody because of the nature of his crime, and his abusive upbringing.

www.heraldsun.com.au (16-7-2014)

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Zayden's family welcomes life sentence

The family of Zayden Veal-Whitting has welcomed a life sentence for their son’s killer, but says it will never ease their pain.
Zayden’s father James Whitting, and his partner Michelle Kneebone, have spoken of their relief the monster who bludgeoned Zayden to death will not walk free for at least 32 years.
Justice Stephen Kaye today sentenced Harley Hicks, 21, of Long Gully, to life with a non-parole period of 32 years.
Hicks was out committing a series of burglaries in the Long Gully area overnight on June 14/15, 2012, when he entered Zayden's Eaglehawk Road home and killed him with a home-made baton.
Delivering his sentence in the Supreme Court in Bendigo, Justice Kaye said the killing was “totally and utterly evil’’ and Hicks' offending put his case "in the worst category of offences of murder which come before the courts''. ?
"All human life is sacrosanct, and the law does not differentiate between the life of one human being and another,’’ he said.
“However, the life of a baby is particularly special and precious.
“"At the time of his death, Zayden was on the threshold of childhood, with the future before him.
“He was in the safety of his own home, secure in his own cot. He was, as any infant of that age would be, utterly harmless, defenceless and helpless.
"Any human being, with even a shred of decency and humanity, could only feel compassion, tenderness and protectiveness towards an infant in those circumstances.
"By contrast, you inflicted a brutal bashing, with a lethal instrument, on that baby.
“You crushed his skull, and savagely beat him with at least 30 blows.
“It is almost unthinkable that any human being could have carried out the sickening crime that you have committed.
"What you did was totally and utterly evil.''
Mr Whitting yesterday said he was happy with a life sentence and Justice Kaye’s words brought some comfort, but it was difficult to put how he and his family were feeling into words.
“It’s hard to put words to the emotions. We got justice, but this still happened … it doesn’t bring Zayden back and doesn’t take away our pain,’’ he said.
“This is just one phase of our journey done.
“We didn’t think he would get life, but we are happy he did. If he gets out in 32 years, he won’t be a young man.
“At least now he can’t do this to anyone else.
“We are relieved he is not out in the community because we would not like anyone else to go through what we have been through. We have been through hell.
“But our focus needs to be on our lives, we need to live for Zayden and for Xavier … we’ve got to keep going for Xavier.
“But we don’t want anyone to forget about Zayden, he’s not just a story.
“He was a bright and happy child and we don’t want anyone to forget him.’’
Mr Whitting thanked Justice Kaye for the compassion he showed to all of Zayden’s family during the trial.
“We thank the judge for his consideration and kind words,’’ he said.
The family also thanks Victoria Police, particularly the homicide squad, for their commitment to the investigation.

www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au (13-6-2014)
Nicole Ferrie

Burglar who beat baby Zayden to death should be jailed for life, says prosecutor

Harley Hicks was found guilty of Zayden’s murder.

A burglar who beat a baby to death should be jailed for life, a court has heard.
Harley Hicks, 21, was last month convicted of murdering 10-month-old Zayden Veal-Whitting in his cot.
Today Crown Prosecutor Michele Williams SC said the gravity of Hicks’ crime, his lack of remorse and his extensive criminal history showed a “bleak” prospect of rehabilitation.
“We say this murder may be categorised as a callous murder of an innocent and defenceless baby.
“It is an evil killing without any real rational explanation,” Ms Williams said.
A Supreme Court jury found Hicks entered the infant’s Long Gully home in the early hours of June 15, 2012 and struck Zayden dozens of times with a makeshift baton in a vicious frenzy.
Hicks was on a drug-addled crime spree when he killed the child.
Zayden’s mother, Casey Veal, discovered her son lifeless in his cot when she woke sometime later.
Hicks was found guilty of Zayden’s murder, aggravated burglary and two counts of theft after a five-week trial this year in which dozens of witnesses were heard.
In a victim impact statement Ms Williams read to the court, Ms Veal said she now lives in fear of losing her surviving son, Xavier.
“The crime and its outcomes consistently plague my thoughts and my dreams. Some days I am scared to close my eyes to relive that experience again.
“The day I lost my son, I lost my whole life. I lost everything I’d ever known, I lost being mummy,” Ms Veal said.
The grieving mother also said Xavier, 4, was plagued by his younger brother’s loss.
“His grief has consumed my daily life, I constantly worry about his thoughts and sometimes what he has to express. For his age he has lived through more than most adults,” she said.
A drawing by Xavier, showing two sons separated with a bright yellow line, was also tendered in court.
“This representation shows how he sees his life and his brother’s: separated. That they live in ‘different worlds’ now,” Ms Veal said.
Zayden’s father, James Whitting, said the “needless loss” had devastated him and his family.
“I can’t even walk down the street without even thinking what the general public are capable of,” he said.
In asking Justice Stephen Kaye to impose a life sentence, Ms Williams compared Hicks to Robert Farquharson and Arthur Freeman, who both killed their children.
“This is different, in some ways maybe worse, because this was a cold, calculated killing of a baby in a vacuum,” she said.
She said the facts that Zayden was sleeping and posed no threat to Hicks were aggravating factors.
“To act in such a violent way, it almost has no explanation,” she said.
Justice Kaye it was concerning that Hicks had brought a weapon, a homemade baton made out of copper wire and electrical tape, to the scene.
“You couldn’t argue (against) the proposition that this case falls squarely into the most serious cases of murder,” Justice Kaye said.
The court heard Hicks had an extensive criminal history which began when he was 14 and included theft, criminal damage and armed robbery.
Ms Williams said Hicks had breached every court order imposed on him, and that he had killed Zayden two months after being placed on a community corrections order for armed robbery.
She said Hicks had shown a disregard over the years for the various institutions that had sought to help him and that, in imposing a life sentence, community protection was a major factor.
In agreeing a minimum term should be imposed on Hicks’ imprisonment, defence lawyer David Hallowes said Hicks’ life had been wracked with family turmoil and drug abuse.
He said that although Hicks’ had a vast criminal history, there was no indication he was normally physically violent and that his consumption of ice may have contributed to the attack.
“It perhaps goes to explain what is otherwise inexplicable,” Mr Hallowes said.
He argued that Hicks armed himself with the baton that night to be used if confronted.
“Your Honour shouldn’t find that he took it out intending to commit violence necessarily,” he said.
Mr Hallowes said Hicks’ family and schooling were fractured and he had begun using drugs as early as 13.
“By 2011 he appears to have been a regular user of methyl-amphetamines,” he said.
He submitted Hicks’ youth should be taken into account when sentencing him.
“He was young at the time of the offence and he’s still young,” Mr Hallowes said.
Hicks will be sentenced on a date to be fixed.

www.news.com.au (12-5-2014)

Harley Hicks found guilty of murdering baby during home burglary in Bendigo

A Supreme Court jury has found Harley Hicks guilty of murdering a baby during a Bendigo home burglary when he was high on the drug ice.
The jury, sitting in Bendigo, began deliberating at 11.30am on Friday before handing down its verdict about 2.40pm on Wednesday.
Harley Hicks at an earlier court apperance.
Mr Hicks, 21, had pleaded not guilty to murdering 10-month-old baby Zayden Veal-Whitting in a house at Eaglehawk Road, Long Gully, in the early hours of June 15, 2012.
Zayden's mother, Casey Veal, found him lying in blood-stained sheets shortly after realising her home had been robbed.
The Crown claimed Mr Hicks had been robbing the house when he unplugged a baby monitor before striking the baby with a baton about 25 times.
The motive for the killing was, according to the Crown, possibly because the baby had woken and Mr Hicks wanted to silence him so he would not be caught. The aggressive influence of the drug ice may have also been a reason for the killing.
The murder weapon was found at Mr Hicks' property on June 20 with both his and the baby's DNA.
The defence claimed Mr Hicks did not enter the house, did not steal anything, did not kill Zayden, and the DNA found on the baton could have been from Mr Hicks' twin brother Ashley.
Harley Hicks was a drug user, a liar, a burglar and a thief but not a killer.
In what was a dramatic twist to the trial last Saturday, Mr Hicks' mother, Wendy Clark, was called before the judge to explain why she had taken a photograph of her son in the dock and posted it on Facebook.
Justice Stephen Kaye, who had ordered no photographs be taken of Mr Hicks while he was in custody because it could be seen as prejudicial to his case, threatened to charge Ms Clark with contempt of court. It is also illegal to take photographs inside a courtroom during a trial.
The judge ordered Ms Clark to appear before him on Monday with a lawyer to make submissions as to why she should not be charged with contempt.
"This court is not Hollywood," Justice Kaye said when warning Ms Clark about her conduct.
During the trial, the jury was told Zayden's mother had started a new relationship with furniture removalist Matthew Tisell about nine months before Zayden was killed.
They had moved into Eaglehawk Road, Long Gully, just before Christmas 2011 with Zayden and his older brother, Xavier, now aged four. The boys' father, James Whitting, shared parenting duties.
Ms Veal and Mr Tisell had been planning to move out of the house on the weekend Zayden was attacked.
Mr Tisell had arrived back home at about 10pm on June 14, 2012, after an interstate trip to Adelaide.
He told the jury he had had something to eat, washed some clothes and to wind down "had a few pipes" of cannabis before having "some intercourse" and going to bed about 2am.
Mr Tisell said Zayden was a light sleeper who would wake up very easily, whereas he would sleep like a log.
Zayden's mother, who also smoked marijuana on the night, told how Zayden had been a healthy and happy baby who had earlier woken up about 1am. She had given him a bottle, a dummy and his teddy bear, put his blankets over him and said goodnight to him.
Ms Veal said she was woken about 7am by Xavier who said, "Doors are open, doors are open".
She and Mr Tisell realised they had been robbed and went to check on Zayden.
Ms Veal noticed the baby monitor wasn't plugged in and Zayden had yet to wake up.
"I thought it's really strange, he must be, like, really tired.
"I looked at him and realised he just wasn't sitting where he normally should be.
"It was just in a really weird place to where he normally slept because he always slept in the same spot and he didn't look like he normally did when he slept.
"He was kind of lying on his back, really like peaceful whereas he's normally lies on his side and bit of everywhere.
"Didn't have the blankets on him that I put him to sleep with because he had to sleep weighted or he wouldn't sleep at all.
"He had three blankets on him because he liked to have it - to sleep like that with his teddy bear and his dummy and that morning when I went in to get him he only had one on him and it sat perfectly straight across his face, which I thought was really strange because he doesn't like things near his nose.
"So I kind of touched him as I went to, like, pull it back and he didn't really respond.
"And then when I pulled it back I just seen there was blood everywhere, um, and that his face was swollen and bruised and he was unresponsive.
"So I picked him up and screamed out to Matty, I think, and - like, screamed at him to ring an ambulance and we took him into the lounge room or the family room, I guess - took him into there."

www.theage.com.au (9-4-2014)
Mark Russell

Burglar Harley Hicks sentenced to at least 32 years in jail for murder of baby Zayden Veal-Whitting

Harley Hicks at court in Bendigo.

A burglar who beat baby Zayden Veal-Whitting to death and tried to blame the murder on his twin brother will spend at least 32 years in jail.
Harley Hicks, 21, beat 10-month-old Zayden to death in his cot after breaking into the Long Gully home in the early hours of June 15, 2012.
Hicks used a makeshift baton crafted out of copper wire and electrical tape to rain blows upon Zayden in the ice-fuelled frenzy.
A jury found Hicks guilty of murdering the sleeping child, as well as charges of aggravated burglary and theft, following a five-week Supreme Court trial in Bendigo.
A total of 36 witnesses were called to give evidence against the young criminal.
This morning Justice Stephen Kaye sentenced Hicks to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 32 years before being eligible for parole.
“What you did was totally and utterly evil,” Justice Kaye told Hicks.
Zayden’s mother, Casey Veal, said she was relieved the family could now move on from the tragedy that had engulfed their lives.
“We know that justice has been served for Zayden and we can begin to plan our futures again,” Ms Veal said.
But she added no sentence would be long enough for Hicks.
DNA found on the murder weapon became critical evidence during the trial.
During the trial his defence lawyer, David Hallowes, suggested Harley’s twin brother, Ashley, could have been the killer because of their identical DNA.
Crown Prosecutor Michele Williams SC compared Hicks to Robert Farquharson and Arthur Freeman, who both killed their children, during the pre-sentencing hearing last month.
“This is different, in some ways maybe worse, because this was a cold, calculated killing of a baby in a vacuum,” Ms Williams said at the May 12 hearing.
Hicks, whose extensive criminal record goes back to age 14, has been described as having bleak rehabilitation prospects.
He has breached numerous community corrections orders for thefts and armed robbery.
There were warrants out for Hicks’s arrest when he consumed a cocktail of alcohol, cannabis and ice and went about burgling homes and stealing from vehicles the night and morning he killed Zayden.
Hicks pleaded not guilty to the crimes, and tried to pin the murder on another person after his arrest.

www.news.com.au (18-6-2013)

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