Ap­peals slap for le­nient judges

Herald Sun - - NEWS - aleks.devic@news.com.au

Supreme Court Chief Jus­tice Anne Fer­gu­son said “sen­tenc­ing isn’t straight­for­ward”.

Chief Jus­tice Fer­gu­son said: “All judges strive to en­sure the fairest and most ap­pro­pri­ate sen­tence for any crime.

“When a de­ci­sion is made and some­one is un­happy about it, the de­ci­sion can be taken to an in­de­pen­dent group of peo­ple (the Court of Ap­peal) to look at it and change the de­ci­sion if they agree it was wrong.

“The abil­ity to re­make the de­ci­sion if there’s been a mis­take is what makes the de­ci­sion-mak­ing by judges very dif­fer­ent from most jobs.”

She added that pun­ish­ment, de­ter­rence, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and pro­tect­ing the com­mu­nity were key is­sues to take into con­sid­er­a­tion.

In a case where a 51-yearold man was so vi­ciously attacked he lost part of his bowel, the ap­peal court in­creased the orig­i­nal 23-month jail term to five years.

The judg­ment said there was “noth­ing in His Hon­our’s sen­tenc­ing re­marks which ad­e­quately ex­plains such a le­nient sen­tence”.

In an­other ex­am­ple, the Court of Ap­peal was also crit­i­cal of a 10-year jail term given to Sevdet Besim, who plot­ted to run down and be­head a po­lice­man on An­zac Day, ar­gu­ing the sen­tence did not meet com­mu­nity stan­dards.

“Hav­ing re­gard to the scourge of mod­ern ter­ror­ism, and the de­vel­op­ment of more re­cent sen­tenc­ing prin­ci­ples in this area, this seems to us to have been un­duly le­nient,” the judges said.

In one of the worst cases un­cov­ered, well-known BMX rider and on­line preda­tor Fa­bien Me­harry abused 22 girls be­tween the ages of 11 and 17, sub­ject­ing them to de­grad­ing acts over nine years. He got just 12 years in jail.

Af­ter an ap­peal, that sen­tence in­creased to 22 years.

Jared Brown, who helped a Mex­i­can syn­di­cate im­port ice worth $60 mil­lion, was orig­i­nally jailed for 12 years but later had that in­creased to 20 years, with a non-pa­role pe­riod of 15 years.

Le­gal sources say pros­e­cu­tors are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly frus­trated at many sen­tences dished out, but cur­rent sen­ten- cing prac­tices dis­suade them from ap­peal­ing as new prece­dents with tougher pun­ish­ments were not be­ing set.

Vic­tims of Crime Com­mis­sioner Greg Davies said judges needed to har­den up and start giv­ing more weight to the max­i­mum sen­tence rather than just a pal­try por­tion of it.

“Judges need to start lis­ten- ing to the com­mu­nity and the High Court to de­liver a mod­ern jus­tice sys­tem that the com­mu­nity wants,” Mr Davies said. “It should not be left to the ap­peals court to rec­tify a sen­tence that is so bad, it is al­most dou­bled.

“The only guar­an­tee that the com­mu­nity will feel safe from th­ese preda­tory crim­i­nals is while they are in­car­cer­ated.”

The Of­fice of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions de­clined to com­ment.

It was re­cently re­vealed Supreme Court judges had snubbed the gov­ern­ment’s Sen­tenc­ing Guide­lines Coun­cil, which aims to give Vic­to­ri­ans a greater say on the sen­tenc­ing of crim­i­nals.

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