THE Sydney drug dealer who caused the death of Glen Innes police officer Constable Bill Crews has had his sentenced increased by six years, nearly double what he originally received for the crime.
Constable Crews’s parents, Sharon and Kel, cried and embraced their son’s colleagues after Justice Peter Johnson announced the decision by the Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday.
They had been devastated by the seven-year sentence that had been handed to Phillip Nguyen, 58, after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter over the death of Constable Crews, 26, who was shot and killed during an ill-fated drug raid in a south-west Sydney car park.
In September 2010, as officers entered a basement car park, Nguyen jumped from behind a car brandishing a silver pistol and fired a number of shots.
One shot hit Constable Crews in the arm before a fellow detective, David Roberts, returned fire, accidentally hitting Constable Crews in the back of the neck.
The family of Constable Crews and police across the state expressed bitter disappointment when Justice Elizabeth Fullerton sentenced Nguyen to a non-parole period of seven years in March this year.
NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith announced two weeks later the DPP would appeal the decision.
Yesterday, Nguyen’s sentence for manslaughter was increased from a minimum of seven years to a minimum of 12 years.
His sentence for shooting with intent to cause grievous bodily harm was increased from a minimum of four years to six.
With a partial accumulation of the sentences, Nguyen will not be eligible for release until September 2023, a total increase of six years.
Crown Prosecutor Nicole Noman, SC, had laid out three grounds of appeal in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal to support her contention the sentence was “manifestly inadequate”.
Central to this was Justice Fullerton’s finding that the manslaughter offence would have been more serious, and warranted a tougher sentence, if Nguyen had realised Constable Crews and his colleagues were in fact police officers.
The judge had partly accepted the 58-year-old’s claim that, because he had been robbed a few weeks before the shooting, he believed the police raid was another robbery.
Ms Noman said the judge had erred in taking this into account.
She said if Nguyen had known that the men were from the police, he would not have been guilty of manslaughter at all, but guilty of murder.
“We say her honour erred in taking account of this apparent failure to identify the deceased as a police officer,” she said.
The Crown also claimed Justice Fullerton did not have proper regard for the standard non-parole period applying to the second charge Nguyen pleaded guilty to – shooting with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Ms Noman further argued that rather than allowing Nguyen to serve the jail terms for the two charges concurrently, there should have been only some overlap, meaning the overall sentence would be increased by at least a number of months and possibly years.
Nguyen was sentenced to four years and nine months for this charge, significantly less than the standard sentence of seven years.