Jesse James Aherne avoids jail after threatening to set people alight at Eastlands Caltex

A man who doused people with turpentine and held a lighter to a woman’s head at an Eastern Shore petrol station has been sentenced for his psychosis-induced offences.

Jesse James Aherne, 30, appeared in the Supreme Court of Tasmania on Monday over three counts of assault, to which he had pleaded guilty.

Crown Counsel Rebecca Lancaster said Aherne caught an uber to Eastlands Caltex in October last year with a female friend.

A female staff member became suspicious after Aherne had grabbed an energy drink and a bottle of turpentine and called out to them.

Aherne smashed his drink on the ground and poured turpentine over his friend.

Ms Lancaster said Aherne told the worker “give me a fing lighter, I’m going to throw this fing stuff all over you”.

The worker locked herself in the office and called the police.

Aherne threw turpentine on a male customer’s face, dripping down onto his body and blurring his vision.

The frightened man ran away, and as he looked back he saw Aherne hold an ignited lighter towards the female’s head.

Aherne threatened to set a third customer, who had just entered the store, alight.

Ms Lancaster said Aherne flicked the lighter on and off several times, but police negotiated with him and arrested him.

He was held until he was sober, as he was under the influence of drugs.

The Warrane man told police he had no memory of the events at the service station.

Ms Lancaster said the incident “could have been much, much worse”.

“This would have been an extraordinarily frightening experience,” she told the court.

Defence Lawyer Pierre Lammersdorf said Aherne had begun engaging in substance abuse early in life and experienced traumatic events, including losing his brother when he was murdered.

Mr Lammersdorf said Aherne had thought he was under threat of the Chinese mafia when he committed the offences and had been experiencing psychosis for about 72 hours leading up to the crimes.

“His decision making was impaired and had been for days,” Mr Lammersdorf said.

Justice Stephen Estcourt accepted a psychiatrist’s report stating psychosis caused by drug use had affected Aherne.

“It’s put to me he still has a long road ahead regarding his drug rehabilitation,” Justice Estcourt said.

He sentenced Aherne to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, and a 12 month community corrections order.

Extracted from The Mercury

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