By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
It has taken more than four years for a career lifeguard on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland to be stood down following a domestic violence incident in which he threatened to burn down an apartment while his former partner was inside.
Mark Eric Jacobs, from Sunrise Beach in Noosa Heads, faced Noosa Magistrates Court on 30 January 2020 after pleading guilty to a criminal charge of threatening violence.
The sadistic incident occurred in late 2015, however, the lifeguard continued to patrol beaches as a Surf Life Saving Queensland beach attendant.
Now, more than four years later, Surf Life Saving Queensland has finally called it a day on the 50-year-old lifeguard, saying the organisation does not condone family or domestic violence of any kind.
The Lifeguard’s Callous Confrontation that Almost Ended His Partner’s Life
It is reported that on 20 November 2015, Mr Jacobs and his partner at the time, Jacqui Barker, got into an aggressive argument resulting from the deterioration of their relationship, which took place a week earlier.
During the argument, Mr Jacobs smashed the windscreen of Ms Barker’s car using an esky and then went on a rampage destroying other items in the house.
In an attempt to put distance between them, Ms Barker decided she would stand up to the hostile man and punched him in the jaw.
She believed this would give her time to run and get herself in a safe place.
However, what Mr Jacobs did next was truly terrifying.
He walked over to the garage before reappearing in the kitchen, gripping onto a red plastic jerry can of fuel.
With one fierce swing of his arm, Mr Jacobs splashed fuel around the room.
He then sprayed it all over his partner.
As Ms Barker stood there saturated in petrol, the man reached above the stove and seized a lighter, at which point he began threatening to ignite the fuel.
“I’m going to burn this place down because I’m sick of it,” Mr Jacobs told his partner.
Lifeguard Holds Lighter 20 Centimetres Away from Partner After Dousing Her in Petrol
For Ms Barker, this was the moment she froze in fear, believing her life was about to be over.
Speaking to reporter Tara Brown from 60 Minutes, Ms Barker relived the frightening ordeal.
“One big swing of his arm – that’s the moment I thought I was going to die,” Ms Barker recalled.
“He knelt down and he held the lighter about 20 centimetres from me, looking up at me, looking straight in my eyes.”
Ms Barker then uttered the words, ‘Don’t be an idiot’, following which the man dropped the lighter onto the floor.
“I think that’s what saved my life,” she said.
Ms Barker started a relationship with the father-of-two in 2011.
At the time, she thought of him as fun-spirited and dependable.
In her eyes, he was the local lifeguard with the history of protecting and saving people.
But over the next four years, their relationship became toxic and fearful – exploding in a night of hostility in November 2015.
“I never believed that he would be capable of attacking me,” Ms Barker told 60 Minutes.
“He was the lifeguard hero. He was a person whose job it was to save lives.”
Police Decline to Prosecute Case; Ms Barker Hires Private Barrister to Launch a Prosecution
In July 2016, Mr Jacobs faced court over the incident.
However, there was no charge or punishment for the threats he made when he doused Ms Barker and the parts of the home in petrol.
Instead, Mr Jacobs pleaded guilty to wilful damage for the destruction he caused to the items in their home during their argument and was simply issued a $1500 fine.
For Ms Barker, this charging left her feeling as though the institution that was meant to be protecting her was actually protecting the offender.
With police declining to prosecute the case, Ms Barker made the decision to hire a private barrister to initiate a private prosecution of the matter.
Her fight to have Mr Jacobs face court spanned years and she was even forced to sell the family home to pay for her legal costs.
Lifeguard Avoids Conviction; Sentenced to 120 Hours’ Community Service
Finally, on 30 January 2020, Mr Jacobs faced Noosa Magistrates Court over the incident, where he pleaded guilty to threatening violence.
He was sentenced to 120 hours’ community service, while the Magistrate told the man he would not record a conviction following his guilty plea because it may jeopardise his ability to hold a Blue Card and threaten his employment.
According to ABC News’ report, until January 2020 – over four years after the violent incident occurred – the board of Surf Life Saving Queensland had not been aware of the accusations and charges against their member of staff.
As such, until last week, Mr Jacobs was still patrolling beaches as a lifeguard on the Sunshine Coast.
Finally, on 22 May, Surf Life Saving Queensland announced Mr Jacobs was stood down “effective immediately”.
“After conducting a thorough review over the past few weeks and seeking legal advice, Surf Life Saving Queensland reached this decision,” the organisation said in a statement.
Have a question? Contact our criminal lawyers in Parramatta or Sydney today to arrange a free consultation.
Law on Threatening to Destroy or Damage Property in NSW
According to section 199(1) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), the law prescribes a 5-years maximum jail sentence to anyone (without lawful excuse) who makes a threat to another person with the intention of causing that person to feat that the threat would be carried out:
- To destroy or damage that other person’s property (or property of a third person); or
- To destroy or damage the property belonging to the same person who makes the threat, in a way which he/she knows will or is likely to endanger the life of (or to cause bodily injury to) the other person(s).
Where the above occurs during a public disorder (without lawful excuse), the maximum sentence is 7-years imprisonment in NSW.
A “public disorder” is defined as a kind of civil disturbance that poses a risk to public safety, examples of which can include an aggressive protest or a riot.
It should be noted that it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove that you actually destroyed or damaged any property – the threat alone is enough to bring charges.