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Jail doubled for hammer attack on truck driver

The “inadequate” jail term handed to a mentally ill meth addict who used a hammer to repeatedly attack a truck driver in a remote toilet block was doubled yesterday after an appeal by prosecutors.

Stephen Darroch, 46, was in the grips of a psychotic breakdown when he attacked Ross Tapper in the toilets of a Meekatharra roadhouse in September 2016, leaving him fighting for his life.

Mr Tapper was flown to Perth and had emergency brain surgery, which saved his life.

However, he will require around-the-clock care for the rest of his life, with no prospect of recovery.

Darroch, who was in the grips of his schizoaffective disorder, was last year jailed for five years over the attack and one year for assaulting a police officer after his arrest.

But the Director of Public Prosecutions fought for a tougher sentence, arguing the five-year sentence was “wholly inadequate”.

The WA Court of Appeal agreed, finding the term was “manifestly inadequate” and “so low as to reveal implied error”, and instead imposed a 10-year sentence for the crime.

“The sentence imposed … inadequately reflects the very serious nature of the offending, including the effect on the victim and the need to properly provide for personal deterrence and community protection,” the court said in its judgment.

“Even when the mitigating factors are given full weight, they cannot justify the sentence that was imposed.”

The Court of Appeal found the attack had “totally ruined” Mr Tapper’s life, and said it had a “devastating impact” on his family.

Darroch had a violent past and was on parole for another attack on two police officers when he turned on Mr Tapper.

He had a 20-year history of mental illness and had stopped taking his prescribed anti-psychotic medication in the weeks leading up to the bashing, abusing methamphetamine and alcohol instead.

In a victim impact statement prepared for Darroch’s sentencing last year, Mr Tapper’s parents Robin and Edna said their son went from a “vibrant young man” to one who was bedridden and unable to speak or recognise them.

They expressed anger over the original sentence, describing it as “unjust”.

Darroch will serve the one-year jail term he received for assaulting the police officer at the same time as his 10-year sentence. He was made eligible for parole.

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