Violent home invader who drove family out gets jail sentence cut on appeal

A family was so traumatised by a neighbour-led attack they left their damaged home that night and never returned.

Mar 06, 2023, updated Mar 06, 2023
 File image.

File image.

Two years later, Russell Ian Hirst has successfully appealed against his sentence for the violent home invasion.

A dispute between neighbours escalated when Hirst, his son Trent and friend Alen Kovac launched an unprovoked attack, smashing their way into the family’s home in Brisbane’s north in April 2021.

The three men destroyed a glass sliding door in pursuit of the family’s father, who locked himself in a bedroom armed with a knife.

The trio kicked and punched the bedroom door so hard it began to bow and break, with wooden shards cutting the father’s arms and chest.

The three men backed off when the father thrust the knife through a hole in the door.

At Hirst’s August 2022 sentencing, a court heard the men left after yelling: “Your whole family is f***ed now. You think the fortress out the front will protect you?”

The family of six left their home of 10 years that night and did not return, leaving house repairs to be completed by others before selling it.

Hirst was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in August 2022, with parole eligibility after 12 months. He was also ordered to pay $3000 compensation.

He had pleaded guilty to assault and property damage charges.

However, Hirst has successfully appealed his sentence, which has been reduced to three years in jail, to be suspended for three years after serving nine months.

A Court of Appeal judgment ruled the initial sentence imposed was manifestly excessive, noting there was only brief premeditation, none of the men were armed and Hirst was a first time offender.

Justices Debra Mullins, John Bond and Sue Brown ruled the difference in sentences given to Hirst and the other two men “gives rise objectively to a justifiable sense of grievance”.

They said it required some reduction of Hirst’s sentence to achieve “proper relativity” with the other two, who pleaded guilty to the same charges.

His son was sentenced to two years in jail but was given an immediate parole release date.

Kovac received three years in jail, suspended for three years after serving three months.

There had been an ongoing conflict between the neighbours after Hirst, a plasterer, had completed work but had not been paid by the employer of the family’s father.

In April 2021, the family were outside their house with a friend when Hirst arrived yelling: “The boys are on their way. The party is about to start.”

Hirst was soon joined by four others including his son and Kovac.

Hirst “chest barged” the family’s mother, who was holding her two-month-old child trying to call the police on her mobile phone.

Hirst and his son punched the family friend then turned their attention to the father.

They followed Kovac, who ran through the family home’s garage, before they shattered the glass sliding door and damaged the bedroom door.


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