AT LONG LAST: Billy Winter's widow welcomes homicide law change

Kim Winter as she left Billy's murder trial in 2009.

Kim Winter as she left Billy's murder trial in 2009.

BILLY Winter’s widow has told of her continuing heartache while welcoming moves to abolish the “defensive homicide” offence that will soon allow one of his killers to walk free.

The Victorian government will introduce legislation to abolish defensive homicide.

Attorney-General Robert Clark said this week: “Defensive homicide was supposed to help victims of family violence.

“Instead it’s helped violent men get away with murder.”

Kim Winter said the move had come “at long last”, but too late for her family.

EDITORIAL: Law change cold comfort

REPORT, PHOTOS: 'They hit him until his skull cracked'

Billy Winter was chased down and savagely beaten to death near the Birallee Tavern in Wodonga on July 27, 2008.

Twelve months ago, one of his killers, Whorouly man Ronald Dale Croxford, now 42, walked free from jail.

He was found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for 7½ years with a minimum of five.

Shortly before his release, Mrs Winter spoke of the dread she had been feeling that Croxford was about to be released from custody.

That feeling has returned now Croxford’s partner-in-crime, Ricky Doubleday, of Wodonga, is also about to get out of jail.

The Winter family has been told Doubleday, now 32, will be freed on parole on July 26 after serving six years.

Doubleday was jailed by Supreme Court Justice Paul Coghlan for a maximum of nine years for defensive homicide.

The trial heard how Croxford became violent when he saw Mr Winter, a Scottish migrant, produce a knife outside the tavern before putting it away.

Mr Winter then retreated up Leisure Centre Drive.

Croxford and Doubleday followed him after arming themselves with garden stakes.

Mr Winter armed himself with a knife in one hand and a belt in the other but the pair hit him.

Justice Coghlan labelled it a tragic case where lives were destroyed “over nothing”.

Mrs Winter said the push to remove defensive homicide would stop murderers from “using the system” to escape appropriate sentencing “for their vicious crimes to humanity and more importantly the individuals affected”.

“As one of those who have suffered and continue to suffer from the actions of those guilty of these vicious murders it is cold comfort,” she said.

“But for the loved ones of future victims, to know those responsible cannot evade appropriate punishment, it is a step in the right direction.”

Mrs Winter, no longer living in Wodonga, described how her husband was chased by Doubleday before he “brutally beat him to death with a garden stake”.

“This man’s defence team used the loophole in the defensive homicide law, which has permitted this vicious criminal to literally get away with murder,” she said.

“We, the family, are still serving a life sentence as we continue to grieve for our husband, father, colleague and friend.”

Mrs Winter said Doubleday’s release next month left her family to relive her husband’s death “and try to process once again the indignity, the injustice and the heartache”.

“There is no parole date for us, no early release.”

Mr Clark said under the new law, people who acted in genuine and reasonable self-defence would be acquitted, but if their actions were not reasonable, they would be convicted of murder.

Mr Clark also flagged reforms to jury directions so jurors would better understand the impact of abuse when assessing self-defence in a family violence contest.

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