A GRIEVING sister claims she was barred from entering court to see her brothers killer sentenced to jail today.
Kornelia Zimmer said she was “manhandled” and “treated like a piece of trash” by Supreme Court security staff this morning when she was stopped from entering the ground-floor level of the court.
Her brother Mark Zimmer’s killer, Leon Borthwick, 20, was sentenced to seven and a half years in jail with a non-parole period of five years. Borthwick was jealous of Mr Zimmer, who had struck up a relationship with his ex-girlfriend, and ran down and killed the 18-year-old on November 16, 2008.
He was convicted of manslaughter by a jury in July.
In sentencing Borthwick, Justice Williams said the man could have prevented the tragedy.
“You saw these young men on the road yet despite the screaming protests of your passengers you took no evasive action to avoid those on the road,” she said.
Justice Katharine Williams was forced to pause twice during her sentence because of Kornelia’s yelling outside court.
Outside court, a tearful Kornelia said she was devastated by the way the court had treated her and her family.
“The whole trial process has been nothing but victimisation and further trauma but he court system, we just need judges that are not prejudicial towards criminals,’’ she said.
Due to a Supreme Court mix-up, Kornelia was also incorrectly told the sentence was at 10.30am – half an hour later than the 10am start.
Today’s sentence was further interrupted by victims of crime advocate Noel McNamara, who walked into court demanding answers.
“Who’s responsible for this?” he asked. “This is a disgrace. A victim’s family should be allowed in the body of the court.”
Supreme Court staff today segregated the Zimmer and Borthwick families, citing security reasons. The Zimmer family and supporters were ordered to take upstairs seating, while Borthwick’s family were seated on the ground floor of the court.
“The seating arrangements were made today with the intention they were the best arrangement for the security and everyone’s comfort and safety,’’ Justice Williams said after reading her sentence.
This was rejected by Mark Zimmer’s parents, Christian and Ruth.
“We spent seven weeks during the trial, we were always allowed in the court, we caused no problems, we behaved ourselves and for some reason during sentencing we were not allowed in the court and Konnie would not accept that because it’s a victim’s right to be in the court even during sentencing,” Mr Zimmer said.
The Zimmer family has vowed to take up the matter with new Attorney-General Robert Clark.
“We need to look at the victims’ charter and look at giving victims some rights in the court preceding, they are treated like second-class citizens,’’ he said.
“It’s not fair. We don’t want to be here, we prefer to much be at home with our son but if we have to be here, treat us like decent human beings.”
This is not the first time the Zimmer family have been frustrated by the legal process.
In September last year, they were stunned when Justice Williams agreed with a defence lawyer’s suggestion to delete parts of their victim impact statement. Justice Williams crossed out sections of their statements, prompting Kornelia to throw her statement up in the air and storm out of court.
Their anguish deepened with Borthwick’s sentence was adjourned three times between July and December, causing a delay of nearly six months.
Borthwick’s trial heard the killing was the culmination of a hate campaign in which he threatened to kill Mr Zimmer and held a knife to his genitals.
Borthwick had driven his van onto the wrong side of the road to hit Mr Zimmer, after he had already made a series of threats warning him to stay away from Borthwick’s ex-girlfriend.
He had earlier claimed the death was an accident.
During the emotional court case, Mr Zimmer’s father Christian had told the court, he lives with the memory of his dying son in his arms and the taste of blood in his mouth after desperately trying to resuscitate him.
And he told the court in an earlier pre-sentence hearing that he had begged God not to take his son.
“I tried so hard to save my child’s life, but so much blood was coming from his mouth and nose that it was difficult for me to get air into his lungs,” Mr Zimmer said in a victim impact statement.
“I swallowed so much of his blood that to this day I can still taste Mark’s blood in my mouth.”
The case also hit controversy after Justice Williams previously cut out parts of the victim impact statements.
Mark’s mother Ruth has also spoken of the fact her son’s room has been left untouched since his death in November 2008.
“The day Leon Borthwick killed my son was also the day the family we used to be died with Mark,” she has previously said.