A Melbourne teenager who beat a man to death with a pole while defending his father in a fight has been sentenced to three years in youth detention.

The boy was aged 14 when he repeatedly struck the 36-year-old father-of-three in the head with a pole in Boronia, in Melbourne's east, in August 2011.

The boy's father had been fighting with the man outside their home, and had called out to his son inside the house for help, Victorian County Court Justice Betty King said on Monday.

"It was a terribly violent episode," Justice King said of the attack.

"What you did was totally wrong."

The teenager had pleaded guilty to defensive homicide.

A victim impact statement from one of the slain man's daughters said of his death: "The emotional damage is too large for words."

Justice King said the teenager, now 16, had endured a "dreadfully unhealthy" upbringing with his aggressive and difficult father, who was mentally ill.

Sentencing him, she said he had turned his life around since the attack, was living with his mother, excelling at school and making friends for the first time.

A woman in the crowded courtroom sobbed and cried "thank god" after the boy was sentenced.

 

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