Two years' jail for wake knife attack

An ice user who stabbed a fellow mourner at a Warrnambool funeral wake will spend at least the next two years in jail.

An ice user who stabbed a fellow mourner at a Warrnambool funeral wake will spend at least the next two years in jail.

AN ice user who stabbed a fellow mourner at a Warrnambool funeral wake will spend at least the next two years in jail.

Matthew Allan Price, 31, of Merrivale Drive, Warrnambool, pleaded guilty in the Warrnambool County Court last week to intentionally causing serious injury.

In handing down the sentence yesterday, Judge Mark Taft outlined Price’s learning and social difficulties, alcohol and drug problems and mental health issues.

He said that on the day of the stabbing, November 29 last year, the men, who were known to each other, separately attended the funeral of a friend, then the wake at the Warrnambool football club.

Judge Taft said that after 7pm an argument occurred in the bar area with Price the protagonist, although the reasons for the argument and Price’s subsequent conduct was entirely unknown.

The judge said Price told victim Stephen Bermingham he was going to stab him and that he was a “king-hitting c...”

Mr Bermingham then invited Price outside and soon after Price was escorted from the premises by club staff, followed by Mr Bermingham.

Judge Taft said that at worst it could have been anticipated a fist fight might follow, but Price produced a pocket knife, which he usually kept on his key ring, and lunged at Mr Bermingham.

The victim was stabbed to the left side of his chest and suffered a laceration to the forehead.

Mr Bermingham, 35, received a four-centimetre stab wound to his left chest wall causing bleeding into the left chest cavity.

He was admitted to the Warrnambool Base Hospital’s intensive care unit, where a CT scan indicated significant bleeding and a chest drain removed 1.4 litres of blood.

The deep chest wound tore muscles and was described by a surgeon as life-threatening.

Mr Bermingham also suffered a severe chest infection and spent 11 days in hospital.

He has since made a good recovery but in a victim impact statement said he continued to think about the incident, had trouble sleeping and his son was too frightened to stay with him any more.

Judge Taft said Price’s parents described him as a loner, he had never had a girlfriend, he repeated prep and had a teacher’s aide at school.

He started drinking when he was 16 years old, used ecstasy and ice from 18 and cannabis from 20.

Price also suffers depression, reoccurring thoughts of death and met the criteria for suffering a major depressive disorder.

Judge Taft said that despite being on medication, Price was found by police officers on the morning of the plea hearing on the Swinton Street bridge with a collar and chain around his neck and threatening self-harm.

Price has the equivalent reading ability of an eight-year-old and in a letter of apology said he knew he had done a bad thing, promised it would never happen again and he would not use drugs again.

Judge Taft said Price, whose prior offending mostly involved drug offences, was unlikely to offend again in a similar manner. 

But the defendant had inflicted a life-threatening knife injury after he had been drinking heavily and using ice, which did not excuse his behaviour. Judge Taft said Price’s action could not be regarded as a spontaneous act of compulsive stupidity.

Price was jailed for four years and three months with two years and three months to serve before being eligible for parole. 

He has already served 115 days and will be eligible for release from prison in about 23 months.

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