Taking strong action against street crimes targeting Indians, an Australian court on Wednesday handed out long jail terms to three attackers of a prominent Indian origin doctor, who was hit with a baseball bat by one of the assailants as if he was "hitting a six at cricket".
Victoria's Haikerwal State County Court Judge Joe Gullaci jailed 20-year-old Alfer Azzopardi, who bashed Mukesh Hairkerwal with serious blows with a baseball bat, for 18-and-a-half years with a minimum of 13-and-a-half years.
Haikerwal, a former chief of Australian Medical Association, was walking through a park in the bayside suburb of Williamstown on September 27 last year when the men bashed him.
The court was told that Haikerwal's skull was heard to crack after Azzopardi took a swing like he was "hitting a six at cricket", causing a severe head injury to the doctor.
Another co-accused Michael Baltatzis, 20, of Glenroy, who together with Azzopardi took part in 23-armed robberies over a two-month period, was jailed for 16-and-a-half years and must serve 10-and-a-half years before being eligible for parole.
A third man, Sean Gabriel, 20, of Hoppers Crossing, was jailed for nine years and nine months with a minimum of six years, AAP reported.
Announcing the sentences, Judge Gullaci dubbed the attacks as "cowardly and despicable".
"Each of the victims was selected at random, but each had a common feature, that is they were vulnerable and alone and in parks or (other) public places," the judge said.
"To be honest, I didn't expect to get a verdict like this," said Haikerwal, who was not in court for the sentences.
"This is a very strong signal to stop violence in our society... This is a message to people in Australia that violence in the society will not be tolerated," he said.
The court was told that Azzopardi laughed as he fled the scene, before minutes later joining in on an attack on another man. Haikerwal required emergency surgery and was placed in an induced coma for 24 hours. He remained in hospital for many weeks.
The attack came towards the end of a two-month armed robbery spree by Azzopardi and the group that involved more than 30 victims.
One of their victims was told: "If you scream or cry, I will kill you".
Many of the targets were of Indian or Asian origin. Over 30 Indian students have been attacked since July in various Australian cities.
Welcoming the verdict, Sydney-based cardiologist Yadu Singh said, "It is a very good move and will send a strong message to such criminals who were attacking people for no reason."
Singh said that such criminals needed to be kept away for a long time from society.