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The Queen v. Robert James Arnautovic
County Court of Victoria, Melbourne Criminal Division
 VCC 597 (9 June 2005)
Robert Arnautovic (defendant) had already accumulated nearly 100 convictions for burglary and theft when he pled guilty to 15 more counts of theft and robbery. At sentencing, the judge detailed Arnautovic’s history. Born to a heroin addict, Arnautovic lived in different foster homes every two or three years without contact with his father. When Arnautovic was 15, his mother introduced him to heroin before an overdose and stroke incapacitated her. Arnautovic began stealing to support his addiction. At 17, Arnautovic had a daughter, but Arnautovic played no parenting role in her life. At about 26, Arnautovic admitted himself to rehab but stayed only eight weeks, then resumed using heroin and committed the additional thefts under sentencing. Meanwhile, Arnautovic met another heroin addict and had a second daughter, Shakira, born with Pierre-Robin sequence and significant medical needs. Shakira’s birth transformed Arnautovic. He became her sole caretaker, began methadone treatment, and obtained housing assistance. The lawyer who helped Arnautovic obtain sole custody testified that Arnautovic stayed on methadone and social services no longer required drug testing. Shakira’s case manager said Shakira’s mother could not care for her while Arnautovic had made Shakira’s best interests his top priority and had welcomed social services’ assistance. The case manager had no concerns about Arnautovic’s heroin use and believed two-and-half-year-old Shakira needed to stay with him. Given Shakira’s conditions, it would be difficult to place her in foster care, and there were no suitable adults she knew to care for her. At sentencing, after hearing victim-impact statements, Arnautovic expressed his remorse, especially his concern for a three-year-old girl who watched Arnautovic beat and rob her father. The prosecution (plaintiff) asked for immediate imprisonment, but Arnautovic’s attorney asked for a noncustodial sentence so Arnautovic could continue parenting Shakira.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Gaynor, J.)
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