DEFENCE: Police surround James Russell after tasering him outside a Prince St address in June.
DEFENCE: Police surround James Russell after tasering him outside a Prince St address in June. Matthew Elkerton

Knife-wielding ice addict sent to prison

A GRAFTON ice addict tasered by police will spend his next two Christmas dinners in prison after walking out of a rehabilitation program while on bail.

James Russell, 31, was sentenced in Grafton Local Court yesterday to two years jail with a non-parole period of 18 months, over charges of armed with intent, assault occasioning bodily harm, resisting police and assaulting police.

The charges against the father-of-four stemmed from an incident outside a Prince St address on June 18, in which he struck a man over the back of a head with a glass beer bottle as the victim was buckling his young son into a car.

The glass bottle shattered over the victim, who was leaving a party at Russell's neighbour's house, before the pair came to blows.

When Russell ended up on the ground, he retreated to his premises and returned with a baseball bat.

He retreated a second time after failing to land any blows on his victim, and by the time police arrived he was wielding two knives.

He approached two officers with one in each hand, and responded to their calls to put the weapons down by challenging them to shoot him.

After several pleas by police, Russell flung the knives under the house but allegedly continued to advance on them and was tasered as a result.

It was noted that while he was being handcuffed he resisted and spat blood at police.

He later admitted to being "really pissed" and in the holding cells displayed erratic behaviour - including stripping off in his cell and claiming his skin was crawling - which police said indicated drug use.

A report by rehabilitation program MERIT showed that prior to his arrest, the 31-year-old was using between 2-3 points of crystal methamphetamine a day, and had done so for the last three years.

It also showed a cannabis habit lasting 17 years, and said he had been using benzodiazapines for the last three years.

In a previous court appearance, defence solicitor Greg Coombes conceded there was a strong prosecution case, but said the likelihood of a custodial sentence was not definite if Russell's drug problem was addressed.

The police prosecutor later said in court that it was sheer luck the Russell was not seriously or fatally wounded by police, who would have been "justified" to shoot him under the circumstances.

Russell was bailed to a residential rehabilitation facility by Magistrate Robyn Denes on August 8, but walked out after a week and spent a further seven days "on the outside" before handing himself in.

Russell's case was brought back to Grafton Local Court for the final time yesterday, where he pleaded guilty to all charges.

He will be eligible for parole on December 28, 2017.



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