In In the Courts by Clyde Mooney

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The coward punch killer of teenager Patrick Cronin at the Windy Mile Hotel has been ordered to pay over $170k compensation to the family by the Victorian Supreme Court.

The ruling is a hard-fought win for the surviving relatives of the 19-year-old victim, who said the amount was “irrelevant” and their motive was sending a message to other potential perpetrators.

“Today is three years, three months and 14 days since Pat was taken away from us by a coward,” father Matthew Cronin said outside the court, after finally getting judgement.  

In early 2016 Patrick Cronin went to the pub with his brother and mates, following his first seniors football match, for the local club.

A brawl involving up to 30 other patrons occurred, and when a mate was knocked over in the melee, Cronin stooped to help, at which time he was stuck in the head from behind by Andrew William Lee.

Cronin left with his friends but later spoke of feeling unwell, and vomiting. Paramedics were called around 1am and he was taken to hospital, but two days later his family made the reluctant decision to heed medical advice and turn off the life support system.

33-year-old Lee later presented himself to Victoria Police. He was remanded in custody and charged with murder, and in late 2017 sentenced to eight years for manslaughter. 

Victorian law allows victims of crime to seek compensation from offenders after sentencing.

The young man’s parents restructured their lives and outlaid significant legal costs to pursue the compensation, and spoke critically of how the process made it “bloody hard” for victims.

Mr Cronin hopes the Victorian government will consider adjustments to the system to help “put victims at the centre, not an afterthought”, suggesting the ruling on their claim should have taken place at sentencing.

The ABC reports Victims of Crime Commissioner Greg Davies, who agrees reform is required, says the court orders for compensation are not enforceable in themselves, potentially requiring victims to go to civil court to chase non-payment.

Victoria’s Sentencing Advisory Council data suggests less than five per cent of victims are ultimately granted compensation, after pursing restitution under the law.

Lee is mandated to pay the Cronin family a total of $170,972.

But first, he must repay $50,000 to the state’s victims of crime unit, for compensation already paid to the family.

Either way, the family pays their own legal costs.

Owner Brett Murphy said the Windy Mile Hotel in Diamond Creek was “never the same” after the fatal incident.

Business fell immediately after the death, and gradually becoming no longer viable it closed in March of this year.

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