Record of Investigation into Death (Without Inquest)
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
I, Timothy John Hill, Coroner, having investigated the death of Simon Duncan DINGLE
I have decided not to hold an inquest into the death of Mr Dingle because the investigation into his death has sufficiently disclosed his identity, the time, place and date of his death and relevant circumstances concerning his death together with the particulars needed to register the death under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.Having conducted an investigation I do not consider that the holding of an inquest would elicit any information further to that disclosed by the enquiries conducted.
(a) The deceased identified as Simon Duncan DINGLE died on the 16 January 2010 at Launceston General Hospital Charles Street Launceston.
(b) Simon Duncan DINGLE was born in Brisbane, Australia on the 16 July 1982 and was aged 27 years.
(c) Simon Duncan DINGLE was a single person whose occupation at the date of death was an agricultural contractor.
(d) I find that the deceased died as a result of a traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage due to a left vertebral artery dissection due to blunt force injuries of the head and neck.
(e) I find that Brandon Roger King contributed to the death of the deceased by punching him to the base of the skull and neck.
Circumstances Surrounding the Death :
The deceased Simon Duncan Dingle was the oldest of three sons born to Neil and Lavinia Dingle. Mr Dingle ordinarily resided at 32 Dirrigree Crescent, Sawtel, New South Wales.
On Tuesday 5 January 2010 the deceased arrived in Tasmania in the company of his brother Ross Dingle and Ms Soo Kim. The trio intended on travelling around the state whilst fruit picking.
On Wednesday 6 January 2012 they all booked into the Deloraine Caravan Park booking a site and pitching tents. The trio managed to secure work, picking raspberries at a property 10 kilometres out of Deloraine, ‘Dunorian’.
A friend of both Mr Simon Dingle and Ross Dingle, Daniel Edwards arrived in Deloraine on Thursday 14 January 2010 and also set up camp at the caravan park.
On Friday 15 January 2010 the group of friends, Mr Simon Dingle, Ross Dingle, Soo Kim and Daniel Edwards arrived at their camp site at approximately 3pm. The group socialised consuming ‘a few cans of beer.’ At approximately 9:30pm the four walked to the nearby Deloraine Hotel where they continued to drink alcohol and play pool with others at the hotel until it closed at 11pm. Once the hotel closed the group walked to another hotel “The Bush Inn” where they remained drinking until 2am when it closed. The group then returned to their camp site at the caravan park.
Upon returning to the caravan park Simon, Ross and Daniel met up with another group of 4 males. This group included Brandon King, Adam Scott and Aaron Heywood. A conversation was struck up with Simon, Ross and Daniel. Ross and Daniel left the group with Simon remaining with them for a short period of time before returning to the caravan site.
A discussion took place between the other group where by it was decided that one of them would hit the deceased and rob him. Mr King asked one of his friends if he was going to hit the man and when the friend declined to do so, Mr King decided to do it himself.
Mr King then went up to Simon and struck him once from behind with a powerful punch that connected between the base of the skull behind the right ear and the neck. I am satisfied on the evidence that Simon had no forewarning that he was about to be struck. He immediately fell to the ground unconscious.
The group firstly walked away, but when they realised that Mr Dingle was in difficulty and not moving they returned and tried to assist him by placing him in the coma position. Mr King then called for an ambulance and he also went to inform Ross Dingle that his brother required assistance.
Emergency service personnel attended the scene and Simon was transported to the Launceston General Hospital where he subsequently died.
Members of Tasmania Police Service attended the scene and an investigation was commenced.
A post mortem conducted by forensic pathologist Dr C Lawrence found the cause of death to be caused by (a) traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage (b) left vertebral artery dissection (c) blunt force injuries of head and neck. Dr Lawrence provided the following opinion:
“Traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage causes rapid unconsciousness. It is caused by rapid rotation of the neck due to impact and damage to the vertebral artery. Often the victim is intoxicated and this is said to be important as it causes more rapid rotation due to impaired resistance to the rotational force. Deep unconsciousness and death occur rapidly shortly after.”
Toxicology testing conducted revealed that Mr Dingle had a blood alcohol reading of 0.183grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
During the police investigation Mr Brandon King, Mr Adam Scott and Aaron Heywood were all interviewed. It was revealed that while Mr Dingle was unconscious Mr Heywood suggested that they should take his wallet. Mr Scott then removed $40 in cash from Mr Dingle’s wallet, which he then shared with Mr Heywood.
Mr King was initially charged with Murder, however he subsequently pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court of Tasmania to the charge of manslaughter. On 28th July 2010 the Honourable Chief Justice Crawford sentenced Mr King to a term of imprisonment for 3 years commencing 16 January 2010, when he was taken into custody with a minimum non parole period of 18 months.
I set out part of the sentencing comments of Chief Justice Crawford,
“The deceased was the oldest of three sons and a much loved member of this family. His mother’s victim impact statement made that very clear. His violent death has shocked and devastated the family. All who heard his mother’s statement would have been deeply moved by it.”
“Manslaughter is a very serious crime. From the legal perspective, he is guilty of that crime because he caused death by an act commonly know to be likely to cause bodily harm and also because it was an inherently dangerous act.”
“Aggravating factors are that the act was committed in a public place against a person who was a virtual stranger and who did nothing to provoke what occurred. Many in the community are deeply concerned about such acts and are frightened about going out at night in case they become victims of such thuggery at the hands of largely youthful offenders.”
“He indicated his plea of guilty very quickly after knowing that the charge would be manslaughter. It is accepted that he demonstrated remorse by doing so. It is also accepted that he did not foresee that death was a likely consequence of his act. However, that is not a mitigating factor on a manslaughter charge. If he had foreseen it he would be facing a murder charge.”
“Many competing considerations arise therefore in a case such as this. If death had not resulted, the punishment would be less severe than will be the case. But, as this happened, he did cause death and he must accept responsibility for doing so. The sentence should reflect the sanctity of human life in general and the criminality involved in its unintended loss. It should condemn such mindless conduct in public places.”
Mr Scott and Mr Heywood both pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court to a charge of stealing which related to them taking the money from Mr Dingle’s wallet as he lay unconscious. The Honourable Chief Justice Crawford made an order under the Sentencing Act, s7 (f) that the proceedings are adjourned for a period of two years and that they give an undertaking that for the next two years they be of good behaviour and not commit any offence which if committed by an adult would be punishable by imprisonment.
Comments and Recommendations:
Mrs Lavinia Dingle, the mother of the deceased, has expressed her dissatisfaction with the outcome of the Supreme Court matters however The Director of Public Prosecutions is the office charged solely with deciding what charges are brought against people and what charges if any are actually proceeded with. It is not the role or function of the coroner to attribute any moral or legal responsibility or liability for a death. A coroner’s role is to determine facts.
By s28 of the Coroners Act, a coroner investigating a death is required to find, if possible, when and where the person died, how the death occurred, the cause of death and to identify any person who contributed to the cause of death.
The primary focus of an investigation is to seek out and record the facts concerning the death of a person. It is a fact finding exercise of an inquisitorial nature. The facts which are relevant are those which may enable findings about the matters the Act requires the coroner to, if possible, determine.
Where criminal proceedings have been initiated and a person charged on indictment, S 25. of the Coroners Act, prevents me from finding any fact which is inconsistent with the determination of the matter by the result of any criminal proceedings.
After consideration I have decided not to hold an inquest. I have weighed what an inquest may entail with the benefits that might follow. I consider that the investigation into the death has sufficiently disclosed the matters I am required to determine. I have concluded that further significant relevant facts are unlikely to emerge were an inquest to be held.
Before I conclude this matter, I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the family of the deceased.
This matter is now concluded
DATED: Friday, 7 December 2012 at Launceston in the state of Tasmania