Oldies wield steel post and horse whip in nasty dispute
AN ELDERLY lady wielding a steel star picket broke the thumb of her horse-loving neighbour in an apparent neighbours' dispute that had been brewing over a long period of time.
Noise and verbal insults sparked the nasty incident in which the 72-year-old couple - Barbara and Donald Eaton - grabbed a timber paling and confronted their rural neighbours at the fence. Barbara used the picket to crack the thumb of Lockyer Valley equestrian and university horse handler Georgie Cham - with Mrs Cham still in horse-riding gear - reacting by whipping Barbara with her horse whip.
The facts were revealed in Ipswich District Court when the couple, set to stand trial that day, instead pleaded guilty to Crown charges.
Barbara Joan Eaton from Kentville, 74, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm to Georgie Cham on November 24, 2017.
Her husband Donald Bruce Eaton, 74, pleaded guilty to unlawful assault causing bodily harm to Karim Cham; and unlawfully assaulting Mrs Cham.
Crown prosecutor Caitlin Thompson said Barbara had no criminal history but Donald was convicted of a wounding offence after he shot his wife in the foot in November 1999.
She said his dated prior matters in NSW and Queensland reflected an issue with alcohol.
She said the Chams lived next door, with ongoing animosity between the neighbours.
Ms Thompson said it was 6pm when Mrs Cham heard the banging noise of a wheelie bin at her neighbours that lasted 20 seconds, yelling out: "You'll have to do better than that."
Verbal abuse was exchanged.
Mr Cham arrived home and saw Mr Eaton grabbing a star picket which his wife took as he walked toward Mr Cham.
The two men argued and Eaton swung his clenched fist, which Mr Cham deflected.
Mrs Eaton used the steel star picket to strike Mrs Cham in the stomach and finger, then struck her two more times.
Ms Thompson said Mrs Cham had just returned from riding her horse and was holding a whip and used it to whip Mrs Eaton a few times which caused her to drop the picket.
Mr Eaton picked up the picket and struck Mr Cham, causing a laceration, then struck Mrs Cham who was arguing with his wife. It struck her face and on the horse-riding helmet.
In the struggle, neighbours who witnessed the behaviour intervened and broke it up.
The court heard Mrs Cham had a broken thumb in plaster seven weeks.
The injury was permanent and has affected her ability to work as a horse handler - its impact devastating to her.
Ms Thompson said that when charged, the Eatons downplayed their offending - their version inconsistent to what three independent witnesses (neighbours) told police they saw.
The Crown sought a sentence of three years for Mrs Eaton, and two years for her husband, with immediate parole release.
Defence barrister Peter Hanlon said the Eatons had been married 50 years, were both pensioners, and lived in the house 32 years.
Mr Hanlon said it was an over-reaction by Mr Eaton to go to the front fence when he heard Mr Cham call.
Instead, he should have gone inside
"It is correct to say he consumed some alcohol. Correct to say there was a trading of insults," Mr Hanlon said.
"Mrs Eaton is very remorseful. She, too, had some alcohol. They traded insults that day. The animosity of some time escalated that day.
"She should not have picked up the picket from her husband. She has no history, led a blameless life."
He said Mrs Eaton's work history included time with a Commonwealth department as a public servant.
Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren SC said
Mrs Eaton used the picket to strike three blows which dislocated Mrs Cham's thumb, causing permanent injury.
And Mr Eaton had struck two blows with his fist to her head - it was fortunate Mrs Cham was wearing a riding helmet.
Judge Horneman-Wren sentenced Barbara Eaton to two-and-a-half years' jail for grievous bodily harm - suspended for three years.
Donald Eaton was sentenced to concurrent terms of 15 months' jail and three months' jail - suspended for two years.
Speaking outside the court, Mrs Cham said the injuries to her left thumb included its tendons and ligaments being torn from the bone. The damage would require more surgeries.
She said it has had lasting consequences for her horse-riding and job as a horse handler. Mrs Cham said the friction between the neighbours had existed for nearly a decade.