A man in Canberra who snatched a stranger’s child in the Civic last year has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison but cannot be released until community protection measures have been taken.
- 27-year-old John Michael Gray pleaded guilty to snatching a five-year-old girl from Canberra’s CBD
- The court heard that Gray suffers from schizophrenia and drug-induced psychoses
- Justice Elkaim set a condition that Gray not be released until an NDIS plan ensures that he lives under supervision
John Michael Gray, 27, pleaded guilty in the ACT Supreme Court to having grabbed the five-year-old girl and ran away while her mother and members of the public persecuted him.
Today, a victim influence from the child’s mother was read out in court, which gave a shocking account of the incident.
“This is the most shocking event that has ever happened to my family,” she said.
The woman said her daughter continued to have nightmares and dislikes remembering the incident and that her two other children were left traumatized after watching their sister be grabbed by a stranger.
“The only consolation they have is that ‘the bad guy’ has been removed,” she said.
The court heard that Gray had seen the child inside the Canberra Center and had followed her and later told a writer who had handed down a verdict before he was sexually attracted to her.
The court heard the girl’s family had just come out of a store when they saw Gray sitting in a nearby doorway.
He grabbed the child and stabbed her under the arm and ran into a nearby alley while the child’s mother shouted, “Help someone have taken my child.”
A member of the public followed Gray into the alley, where they saw him drop the baby and a knife he had in his pocket.
Gray tried to escape, ran first into a nearby store and then to Narellan Street, where he was detained by members of the public until police arrived.
Today, the court heard that Gray had told the author before the verdict that he had wanted a relationship with the girl.
“The proposal to intend to enter into a relationship is ridiculous and deviant,” Judge Michael Elkaim said.
But Judge Elkaim eventually found Grays’ actions driven by his mental illness.
“Criminal acts were the result of a psychotic episode,” he said.
The court heard that Gray suffers from schizophrenia and drug-induced psychoses.
The court hears about Grey’s traumatic childhood
His lawyer Jonathan Cooper also described a shocking childhood of neglect that left him living in nursing.
The court heard that his foster mother treated him so badly that she was prosecuted and he was returned to his parents.
Today, excerpts from a letter of apology from Gray to the victim and her family were read out in court, where he explained that he was unwell at the time of the crime.
Cooper also told the court that when Gray had been in jail for the offense, he had been properly medicated for the first time ever.
Justice Elkaim said Grey’s verdict should reflect his story and acknowledge the causal link between Grey’s mental illness and his abusive one.
But he said he also had to prioritize community safety.
Gray has been sentenced to two and a half years and may come on parole later this year.
But Judge Elkaim has made it a condition that he cannot be released until there is an NDIS plan for him to live under supervision and comply with his medication regime.
Gray has also been entered on the register of child sex offenders in the ACT.