TRIGGER WARNING: This article deals with an account of rape/sexual assault and may be triggering for survivors of abuse.
By AMY STOCKWELL
Last week, while waiting for a bus in Sydney’s Hunter’s Hill, a 30 year old woman was attacked.
She was stabbed and assaulted. Her clothes were torn off in an attempted rape. She suffered a punctured lung and a fractured cheekbone.
What she didn’t know was that the man who was attempting to murder her on that June evening had killed a woman before.
Her attacker, Terrence John Leary, was on parole after serving a prison sentence for murdering a 17 year old woman.
Parole is an important element of our criminal justice system. It is designed to promote rehabilitation of offenders. At its core, the prospect of parole promises release in the community if an offender can demonstrate that they are reformed, remorseful and will not reoffend.
Lately, this system has come under scrutiny because a number of violent offenders have committed hideous crimes against women while on parole.
In circumstances that have now become widely known, Jill Meagher was raped and murdered by Adrian Bayley in Melbourne last year. Bayley had repeatedly been convicted and imprisoned for rape. In fact, he had been convicted of 20 rapes over 23 years. It is now known that Bayley was on parole when he raped and murdered Ms Meagher. He was also on bail for shattering the jaw of a man while he appealed his sentence for that crime.
The tragedy is that there are several points in time where decisions could have been taken that would have ensured that Bayley was not on the street on that horrible night last September. In 2002, a judge sentenced Bayley – already a convicted rapist from the age of 19 – to only 11 years in prison for raping five women.
A Parole Board released Bayley on parole in 2011. A judge in Geelong granted Bayley bail while he appealed the severity of his 3 month sentence for shattering a man’s jaw in 2012. And the Victorian Adult Parole Board did not revoke Bayley’s parole despite the fact he had been convicted and sentenced for this violent offence.
Four opportunities to prevent harm. Four failures to do so.
Now, I appreciate that with the benefit of hindsight, these decisions would not be made. However, the women who have been attacked while offenders are on parole don’t have the benefit of hindsight either.
Professor Arie Freiberg, the chair of the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council said of the Parole Board, “sometimes they get it catastrophically wrong” [surely the Biggest Understatement of 2013].