Anti-terrorism agent in court over a violent pub punch-up
AN AUSTRALIAN Border Force intelligence officer who has helped stop terrorism plots has put his job in jeopardy after violently hitting a person at a Hervey Bay licensed venue.
Steven Thomas Darby, 47, was visiting Hervey Bay in January 2015 following his mother's death when he hit a man twice causing him serious injuries.
The Canberra resident has the same security clearance as the Prime Minister, has helped stop thousands of kilograms of drugs from coming into Australia, and was part of the team the foiled the plane terror plot in Sydney in July.
Despite a career revolved around stopping crime, he fronted court himself for the first time in his life this week.
Darby pleaded guilty in Hervey Bay District Court on Tuesday to assault occasioning bodily harm.
Recapping the incident, Crown prosecutor Alex Stark said Darby was sitting inside the Hervey Bay Boat Club in January 30, 2015 about 2am when he stood up and punched a man in the nose and then the stomach.
The victim suffered a bladder rupture and required immediate surgery, and also needed staples to his nose.
The court heard that Darby's actions were a response to perceived threat from the victim prior to the attack, as Darby observed the victim approach him through a glass wall.
Darby's role with the Australian Defence Force, which he has been a part of for 16 years, was now at risk as a result of the few seconds of violence.
Taking the stand, Darby said thinking about the event and the harm he caused made him feel "ill in the stomach."
"In no way do I wish an injury like that on anyone," Darby said.
"I'm my own worst critic, I'm dumbfounded it happened.
"I'm sincerely sorry to the victim and the result of the injury, and any pain it's caused him."
Darby said he was visiting Hervey Bay at the time to attend his mother's funeral, after she passed away days earlier.
Aside from the prospect of losing his employment, Darby said he suffered relationship breakdowns and financial loss on top of the guilty conscience.
Judge Gary Long said Darby's reaction in those early hours of the night was "excessive to the circumstance."
"The bar area where you were seen to be seated was effectively empty except for you," Judge Long said.
"There was some movement from the complainant towards you as you approached nearer to him.
"Your use of force and resort to violence, was to be regarded excessive and pre-emptive in the sense that it was unnecessary.
"There was no apparent reason for you to move from your table at all."
After the incident, Darby assisted the man and admitted to authorities that he was responsible.
Judge Long's decision on whether to record a conviction on the assault would play a role as to whether Darby would keep his job, the court heard.
Darby's defence barrister Ben Clark argued Australia's safety would be threatened if his client was to lose the senior position.
"In my 17 years behind the bar, I've never represented someone with the level of integrity and holding a position to the level of responsibility as Mr Darby," Mr Clark said.
"He's an absolute repository of information and experience across a wide range of significant issues.
"It's evident by the level of security clearance he has."