Last Thursday night, after allegedly downing 10 schooners, four bourbons, and cocaine, Ryan Wells—a 32 year old concreter—randomly punched a complete stranger in the head, smashing his teeth and knocking him unconscious in the process. This happened on a public footpath at around 8PM and was recorded by so many CCTV cameras that we’ve all been able to watch it from various excruciating angles, including the one showing the attacker and his brother walking away laughing. The footage is hard to watch, leaving no doubt that this was a callous and unprovoked act of violence.
With his identity exposed, Ryan, along with his brother, turned himself in to police yesterday, at which stage he appeared in court and was granted bail until the case returns to court on August 6th. With the announcement of his bail, public outrage has continued to grow.
Jeff Kennett and Premier Daniel Andrews are among the many expressing anger and disbelief that Ryan Wells was allowed to walk free in the face of the evidence. There have been reports that Ryan Wells is also being investigated over another serious assault from earlier this month which resulted in the victim being hospitalised with bleeding on the brain and a broken nose. Right now, even though they caught this guy, Ryan Wells is at home with a night time curfew and people are understandably angry.
So what’s happening here? Why isn’t Ryan Wells locked up somewhere he won’t be able to offend again? Why is the guy he hit, the victim, living in fear of retribution? Speaking on 3AW this morning, former chief magistrate Nick Papas QC explained that it was because the state’s jails were full and that it therefore took time for magistrates to find places to put offenders. He added, “The jails are full. Where do we draw the line?...Yes, let’s tighten, let’s change the law if that’s what we want. But where are we going to put them? Bearing in mind each person (jailed) costs $100,000.”
While the families of former assault victims collectively suspect that Ryan Wells will meet a harsher fate via social media than the state’s legal system, it seems like all we can do is hope that a crowded jail system won’t result in history repeating itself and, as in the cases of Jill Meagher, Eurydice Dixon and many others, the end of another life.