Jail term ‘only outcome’

A TRARALGON man has been sentenced to 18 months jail after he was found guilty of shooting a 10 year-old girl in the buttocks with an air rifle last year.

In the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court on Friday, friends and family members of Mark Bhugwana burst into tears after magistrate Clive Alsop handed down the sentence.

“This is a case where the court needs to send a message to the community, that if you use firearms in an environment where you could hurt people, a jail term is the only possible outcome,” Mr Alsop told Bhugwana, who was a recreational shooter.

“This is the most irresponsible (incident) I have heard of in a long time.

“A child was shot at and suffered injury, not just a glancing blow or sore backside.

“As an experienced shooter, you should know the impact of the slug; the bullet penetrated the child and the pain would have been excruciating.”

Mr Alsop said he had arrived at his verdict despite 29 year-old Bhugwana’s plea of guilty from the outset to several charges, including reckless conduct endangering a person, possess unregistered firearm, recklessly cause injury and using a firearm under the influence of alcohol.

“(The sentence) reflects the serious nature of the fact a child was wounded,” the magistrate said.

The court heard about 5.30pm on 4 September, Bhugwana fired a slug from his .22 calibre air rifle with scope at the child who was playing with her younger brother in their backyard at a nearby property.

The shot had penetrated the girl’s buttocks, causing welts and bleeding.

Bhugwana had told investigators he was aiming at a bird with the weapon, but due to fatigue had dropped the shot and struck the victim.

He was also found to be in possession of an unregistered Shanghai 61 air rifle.

Defence lawyer Clem D’Alessandro said Bhugwana was not a violent person by nature and had shown immediate remorse for his actions.

He said since the incident was reported, Bhugwana had lost a long-term job of seven years and had been forced to relocate.

The court heard Bhugwana’s family members had also been ridiculed in school following media reports of the incident.

Acknowledging his client’s actions were “totally reckless” and that it was “the wrong thing to do”, Mr D’Alessandro appealed for leniency as Bhugwana’s partner was pregnant.

Bhugwana will be eligible for parole after serving a minimum of 12 months in jail.