Minimal use of maximum sentences for our worst criminals

NINE of the 10 worst crimes including manslaughter, rape and brutal bashings have not had the maximum sentence imposed in almost 20 years.

Sunday Herald Sun analysis has revealed Victorian courts have been dishing out sentences well below the maximum for repeat offenders who have committed some of the state’s most horrific crimes.

Not once since 1998 has the life term been handed to the state’s worst drug smugglers. The longest term for a single count was 22 years.

The longest sentence meted out for a home invasion — 12 years — is not even half the 25-year maximum for aggravated burglary.

No child rapists have been handed the maximum 25-year term. The longest penalty for the sexual penetration of a child under 12 has been just 18 years.

Victims and a fed-up Police Association say the statistics show judges’ sentencing is out of step with community expectations.

Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said the data showed that maximum sentences had become “virtually redundant”.

“This is a constant and enduring frustration for our members,” Mr Gatt said. “When it comes to serious, indictable crimes there is a community expectation that serious consequences will follow.”

Mr Gatt said it was unrealistic for maximum sentences to be applied in every case, but sentencing reform was clearly needed.

“The fact that they (maximum sentences) are never applied shows that they have become virtually redundant and some recalibration in sentencing is needed,” he said.

TPAV Secretary Wayne Gatt

Not even evil predator Adrian Bayley, convicted of 22 rapes, received a maximum 25-year term.

Druglord Tony Mokbel was given a 30-year sentence for two counts of trafficking a commercial quantity of drugs — less than half the life sentence available to the court.

Armed robber Christopher Binse has spent most of his adult life behind bars but, despite a 25-year maximum available, the most he has been jailed for is 14 years and two months.

Jade Hunia, 20, was on four sets of bail when he broke into a police officer’s home and attacked him with a kitchen knife. He received seven years and six months’ jail despite a maximum possible term of 25 years.

The maximum sentence for murder — life in prison — has been imposed 91 times since 1998, but many cases have been downgraded to manslaughter. That carries a 20-year maximum, which has not been imposed in that time.

Mehmet Torun was jailed for eight years after he shot dead his girlfriend, Kara Doyle, with a sawn-off shotgun at point-blank range after an ice bender in April 2013.

Torun, who dumped the 24-year-old woman at a petrol station after the shooting, pleaded guilty to manslaughter after cutting a deal to have his murder charge downgraded.

Nick Doyle said he was shattered at the “soft attitude” towards his daughter’s killer.

“I have to wonder, in the judge’s eyes, what is worthy of the maximum sentence,” Mr Doyle said.

“I wish they’d have a big look at themselves and toughen up. No more soft attitudes — I want hard, severe sentences for these criminals.”

Victims of Crime Commissioner Greg Davies said he was not surprised by the findings, adding that many victims were angered by short jail terms. “If those sentencing outcomes are not in line with community expectations, there’s only one place it can be rectified and that’s in our courts,” Mr Davies said.

Offenders were not being deterred as a result. “If there are no consequences or if they are of no significance, there’s nothing to tell them, ‘Don’t do it again’,” he said.

In Victoria, 44 per cent of prisoners were returned to jail within two years of being released during 2012-13, according to Sentencing Advisory Council data.


By Genevieve Alison, Sunday Herald Sun, 25 November 2017

Image from iStock

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