A promising Melbourne law student who bashed a police officer and tried to steal two cars while in a drug-induced psychosis has been jailed.
Wiaa Puot, 25, was studying law at Victoria University, interning at the National Australia Bank and contributing to community music groups when his life fell apart in late 2019.
He became overwhelmed by these pressures and began smoking increasing amounts of cannabis, a drug he first turned to after sustaining a serious back injury while playing basketball three years earlier.
Puot, the son of South Sudanese refugees, then lost his prized bank internship and was cut off from his music groups.
Faced with nothing but free time, his drug use grew by December 2019, smoking about two grams of cannabis every day.
Puot started to hear voices in his head, while his family members would see him awake all night looking out the window. He felt paranoid and trusted no one.
The 25-year-old then became gripped by violent desires and believed he had a "special role to play" and had to pass certain "tests".
Puot in February 2020 robbed a bottle shop in Abbotsford while armed with a hammer.
The violent spree continued days later when he attempted to rob a Richmond McDonald's restaurant and attempted to steal two different cars, assaulting several people in the process.
Police arrested him at his girlfriend's house in Avondale Heights and he was brought in for questioning.
After giving a "no comment" response, Puot threw a chair at a police officer when they were alone in a room together before bashing the man for just over two minutes, landing at least a dozen punches to his head.
The police officer was taken to hospital and suffered extensive facial bruising, lacerations to his lower lip, stress fractures and chipped teeth.
Another victim needed 11 stitches to close a wound to her head after Puot bashed her with the back end of a hammer while trying to steal her car.
Puot on Thursday faced the Victorian County Court, where he was sentenced to a total of three years in prison.
He had pleaded guilty to nine charges including intentionally causing injury, assault, armed robbery and attempted aggravated carjacking.
Judge George Georgiou said the 25-year-old's violent offending was driven by paranoid psychosis and his moral culpability was significantly reduced by this mental state.
Puot, who has no prior criminal history, had been suffering from auditory hallucinations, the judge added, and was at the time "profoundly unwell".
"It is difficult to understand how you came to commit these offences," Judge Georgiou.
"Yours is an unusual case and my findings may bring little comfort to the victims."
Judge Georgiou also said Puot had good prospects for rehabilitation, strong family support, and had shown excellent character prior to the offending.
He must serve at least one year and six months in prison before being eligible for parole.
Australian Associated Press