Legal Context

In the case of Crystal Lee England v R, Sackda Phanith v R [2009] NSWCCA 274, the court delved into the appeals of two individuals convicted of the serious crime of robbery in company. These offences, which transpired in November 2006, involved Crystal Lee England and Sackda Phanith, among others, forcibly entering homes, assaulting the residents, and stealing various items of value. The incidents not only caused physical harm to the victims but also left them traumatised.

The court’s analysis was comprehensive, focusing on critical issues related to sentencing, the admission and reliability of evidence presented during the trial, and the principles of parity between co-offenders. This case raised important questions about how justice is served and the fairness of the legal process in ensuring that all individuals involved in a crime are held appropriately accountable for their actions.

Suspension and Appeal for Stay

Both Crystal Lee England and Sackda Phanith sought to overturn their convictions and reduce the severity of their sentences through the appeal process. They argued that significant errors were made during their trials, particularly with regard to the judge’s findings of fact and the directions provided to the jury. The appellants contended that the trial judge had misinterpreted key evidence and failed to give proper legal guidance to the jury, which could have influenced the jury’s decision-making process. Additionally, they claimed that the sentences imposed were disproportionately harsh and that there were noticeable disparities between the sentences given to each co-offender.

The Court of Criminal Appeal, after considering these arguments, granted leave to appeal. However, after a thorough review, the court ultimately dismissed both appeals, upholding the original sentences as appropriate and just given the circumstances of the crimes.

Assessment of Crime

The crimes committed by England and Phanith were notably severe and characterised by significant violence and intimidation. On the night of 10 November 2006, Phanith and England, along with two other men, forcibly entered a home in Rosemeadow. They assaulted the victim, Sareth Sor, and his family, demanding money and valuables while subjecting them to physical violence.

The offenders tied up the victims, further terrorising them during the ordeal. England played an active role, gathering stolen property while the others continued to threaten and assault the victims. A similar, equally violent robbery occurred on 17 November 2006. In this instance, England deceived the victim into opening the door, thereby facilitating the entry of her accomplices who then committed the robbery. In both cases, the use of physical violence and threats amplified the gravity of the offences, causing profound fear and distress to the victims and showcasing the premeditated and coordinated nature of the crimes.

Considerations on Public Safety and Trust

The court underscored the brazen and alarming nature of the crimes, which were committed within the victims’ homes—a space typically considered safe and secure. The offenders’ actions demonstrated a blatant disregard for public safety and trust, as they terrorised the victims, stole their belongings, and left a lasting impact on the victims’ sense of security. The use of violence and threats of further harm were deliberate tactics to intimidate the victims and discourage them from reporting the crimes to the authorities.

The court highlighted that such offences not only endangered the immediate victims but also severely undermined public trust in the safety of private residences and communal spaces. The brazen nature of these crimes necessitates stern sentences to deter similar conduct in the future and to reaffirm the community’s faith in the justice system’s ability to protect its members and uphold the rule of law.

Appellate Decision

The appellate court meticulously reviewed the trial judges’ assessments of the offences and the offenders’ culpability. Despite the numerous arguments presented by England and Phanith, the court upheld the original sentences, determining that they were within the appropriate range given the severity of the crimes.

The court also addressed the issue of parity, acknowledging that while there were some differences in the sentences imposed on the co-offenders, these differences were justified based on their individual circumstances, roles in the crimes, and levels of involvement. The court emphasised the importance of considering the totality of each offender’s criminal behaviour and personal circumstances when determining sentences, ensuring that justice is balanced with fairness and proportionality.


This case underscores the critical importance of appropriate sentencing and the need to address the gravity of violent crimes committed in private residences. The appellate court’s decision to uphold the original sentences highlights the judiciary’s commitment to ensuring that offenders are held accountable for their actions and that sentences reflect the seriousness of the offences.

The case also illustrates the complexities involved in determining appropriate sentences for co-offenders, the necessity of considering both individual culpability and broader principles of justice, and the vital role of the appellate courts in safeguarding the fairness of the legal process.

Seeking Legal and Professional Guidance

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