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Attorney General Statements

Attorney General statements regarding our story on mandatory sentencing for rapist murders.

Attorney General of Australia, Christian Porter:

National Cabinet has agreed to a new, streamlined system of ministers’ ‘meetings’.

The Council of Attorneys-General (CAG) in its current form has been abolished.

Attorneys-General can seek to have items listed on any future ‘meeting’ agendas.

As this particular topic relates to state/territory jurisdictions rather than Commonwealth jurisdiction, it may be a topic that the Northern Territory Attorney- General would raise, if they chose to do so.

No agendas for any future meetings have been prepared (as of today).

NSW

NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman:

I could never fully comprehend the ongoing anguish suffered by those whose loved ones are murdered and violated in this way. I recognise that no punishment would ever be enough to erase the grief of these terrible crimes.

Sentencing discretion recognises that no two cases are the same, allowing courts to impose sentences that reflect the individual circumstances of a case.

A person who is sentenced to imprisonment for life in NSW is to serve that sentence for the term of their natural life.

With the exception of the murder of a police officer in the execution of their duty, the courts retain discretion to impose a lesser sentence, based on the circumstances of the case.

Because of my concern that sentences for murder in NSW may not be consistent with community expectations, I asked the NSW Sentencing Council to prepare a review of sentencing for homicides, including domestic and family violence homicides.

I anticipate receiving the report in the near future.

The following NSW offences carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment: murder; aggravated sexual assault in company; sexual intercourse with a child under 10; persistent sexual abuse of a child; and drug offences involving large commercial quantities of prohibited drugs. NSW law requires a mandatory life sentence for the murder of a police officer in the execution of their duty.

VICTORIA

Victoria Attorney-General, Jill Hennessy:

“What happened to Anne-Marie Culleton was a horrendous act – the effects of which are still felt by her family and friends every day.

Every woman has the right to live her life without fear – that's why we've strengthened our laws to protect victims and hold perpetrators to account. This included creating a ‘standard sentence’ scheme which increased sentences for 12 of Victoria’s most serious crimes, including murder, rape and sexual offences involving children, as well as increasing penalties for manslaughter.

Too many women continue to be murdered in Australia by men intent on robbing them of their dignity, and our sentencing laws must recognise this.”

The Victorian Government will participate in any national discussion on this issue, but we will be guided by the experts on what more is needed to keep Victorians safe.

In recognition of the seriousness of sexual and violent offending, the Victorian Government made offences such as murder and rape ‘Category 1’ offences and set mandatory custodial sentences for these crimes. This means the court must impose a term of imprisonment for these offences and cannot impose a community correction order or other non-custodial sentence. The maximum sentence for murder is life in prison.

The Government has also asked the Victorian Law Reform Commission to examine sexual offence laws and to consider best practice approaches in other Australian and international jurisdictions for responding to sexual offences

NORTHERN TERRITORY

Northern Territory Attorney General, Selena Uibo:

As Attorney General, I am prepared to consider all correspondence received.

Our Government has asked the NT Law Reform Committee to review mandatory sentencing and sentencing options.

The Committee has released a discussion paper and submissions close on 25 November. The final report is due to Government in March 2021.

QUEENSLAND

Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Shannon Fentiman:

I’m committed to working with the Department of Corrective Services and the Police Minister on matters of sentencing and parole to ensure we have a fair and just legal system.

I would welcome a discussion with Eileen Culleton on what more we could do here in Queensland.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Spokesperson from the South Australian Attorney-General’s office:

The question of what is an appropriate penalty in any particular case is a matter for the courts in the exercise of their discretion.

However, it should be noted that the laws of this State already provide for a mandatory penalty of life imprisonment for the crime of murder, with a mandatory minimum non-parole period of 20 years.

It should also be noted that the Sentencing Act 2017 provides that a sentencing court can decline to set a non-parole period for an offence of murder if of the view that it would be inappropriate to do so due to the nature and gravity of the crime, the criminal history of the defendant, the behaviour of the defendant on any previous period on parole or under supervision, or for any other reason that the court considers appropriate.

This power has been exercised in appropriate cases in this State.

It should be noted that the Correctional Services Act 1982 provides that a prisoner serving a life sentence for the offence of murder cannot be released on parole unless the parole board is satisfied that the prisoner satisfactorily cooperated in the investigation of the offence. It's important to also note that the parole board is required to take community safety and other factors into account when considering an application.

The Government has already introduced a number of reforms to ensure the penalties available to the courts reflect the seriousness of the offence. This includes a number of tough measures aimed at cracking down on perpetrators of domestic violence, including stronger penalties for repeated breaches of intervention orders, and a significant reduction in the sentencing discounts available to offenders for an early guilty plea.

At this stage, there is no intention to further review South Australia’s sentencing laws, and this is not a matter that is currently on the CAG agenda.