Sydney real estate agent avoids jail over inner west samurai sword attack

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A real estate agent who attacked a woman with a samurai sword in Sydney’s inner west has been spared a custodial jail sentence, after a judge found his rehabilitation would be best served by intense supervision in the community.

Karl Howard, 47, had been awake for seven days on a cocaine and alcohol binge when he elbowed one woman to the face, and struck a second woman with the sword, at his Annandale home in the early hours of February 8, 2021.

Karl Howard pictured outside court last year. The real estate agent has been spared a custodial jail sentence over the sword attack.Credit: Brook Mitchell

He lifted the 1.5-metre sword over his head and swung it down with force, hitting the woman’s arm when she threw it up to shield herself and damaging tendons, muscles and nerves.

On Friday, the NSW District Court heard the woman required reconstructive surgery and Howard has made a $225,000 reparation payment to her.

Judge Antony Townsden said Howard had been skipping around his home and laughing, causing one of the women to take knives from the kitchen and hide them.

He told one of the women “I need to kill you, you need to die” and elbowed her to the face, and tried to kiss the second woman before slapping her across the face, causing her to fall to the ground.

Howard retreated to a room and grabbed the sword, which he used to strike the woman he had tried to kiss as she screamed “no” in fear.

Townsden said the woman who had been elbowed to the face fled the home, believing her friend had been killed.

After a judge-alone trial last year, Townsden found that Howard did not intend to murder or seriously harm the woman he struck with the sword, because his drug use significantly impaired his mental state.

Howard had earlier pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm, for elbowing the first woman, and recklessly causing grievous bodily harm over the sword strike.

Townsden said Howard’s risk of reoffending was best served by an intensive correction order, a form of prison sentence served in the community, for two years and three months.

Howard made a $225,000 reparation payment to the woman he attacked with a samurai sword.Credit: Flavio Brancaleone

Under the order, Howard must serve 250 hours of community service, abstain from drugs and alcohol, and attend counselling and psychiatric examinations if called on to do so.

If Howard breaches any of the conditions he will not come back before a court and will be taken into custody immediately.

Townsden said the attack was unprovoked and unplanned, and Howard had shown remorse for his actions. At the time, Howard was subject to a conditional release order for common assault, for an incident that did not involve physical violence.

Howard said in a sentencing report that he was devastated by what he had done and attributed his behaviour to excessive cocaine and alcohol use.

The judge said Howard had been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and drug and alcohol disorders, and remained vulnerable to relapsing back into addiction.

He said Howard had spent 80 days as an inpatient at the Sydney Clinic, a form of quasi-custody, and was held on remand for almost a year after the attack until he was finally granted bail.

Howard did not speak as he left court with his solicitor on Friday afternoon.

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