Judges in NSW will be able to sentence criminals for historical offences using today’s standards rather than be bound by out-of-date laws, under a proposal by the NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman.
NSW is on the path to be the first state in Australia to apply today’s law to all crimes, no matter what year the incident took place.
The Daily Telegraph brought the matter to the state government’s attention in February after survivors of serial sex predator Gregory Richardson told how his prison stint was cut short by the “inadequate” law.
Mr Speakman told The Daily Telegraph on Thursday a “thorough review” of the NSW’s sentencing practices will take place across the board.
“If we now think past principles are wrong why would we keep perpetuating the error, and keep applying past principles?’’ Mr Speakman said.
“I’ve had some preliminary analysis done by my department, and I’m asking them now to do a thorough review and consult with major stakeholders on a proposal to apply current sentencing practice across the board.”
The A-G said if those stakeholders agreed with the change, he would take the proposal to cabinet before the end of the year.
Victims of crime, judges, magistrates, lawyers and prosecutors will be among those contacted during the estimated six-month review.
Rachel Shabolt, who was sexually assaulted by Richardson at age 16, said the plan was a “bloody big step in the right direction”.
“Criminals should be sentenced on laws now, not from 20, 30 years ago,’’ she said.
“It doesn’t make any sense.
“What happened to me back then isn’t any less serious than if it happened to me today.”
Another of Richardson’s victims Emma Collins, who was aged 15 when he attacked her said she now felt “heard”.
“It’s promising that the right people are starting to take notice and support victims of crime.
So much needs to change, and this is one step, so that’s a good start,” Ms Collins said.
Mr Speakman said Judge Peter Berman’s comments when sentencing Richardson in October last year — for sex assaults committed more than 20 years ago — was the review catalyst. Judge Berman slammed the “strange” legislation requiring him to use historical sentencing laws for crimes against two females, aged 16 and 25, and today’s tougher laws for two girls aged 14 and 15.
“For reasons which completely escape me, previously the law was that when people were being sentenced for old offences, judges had to have regard to the sentencing practices at the time the offences were committed,” Judge Berman said at the hearing.
“Fortunately parliament has corrected that error but strangely have only done so in cases of child sexual assault.
“The error is perpetuated when people over 16 were sexually assaulted some time ago.
“It’s woefully inadequate. Nevertheless, that is the law and, of course, I will apply it.’’
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