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  1. #1
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    Australia - Should victims be given a greater voice in the sentencing process?

    SA Victims’ Rights Commissioner says victims should be represented by lawyers during criminal sentencing hearings

    June 03, 2014

    TWO very different court cases — two families left asking “how is this justice?” Now there are renewed calls to give victims a greater say in the sentencing process.

    Read two recent case studies below, then scroll down to read how the state’s top advocate for victims wants a significant overhaul of the sentencing process.

    Case study 1 — victim Ryan Featonby, offender Judith Clutterbuck

    THE parents of a young man killed in a car crash caused by an inattentive driver have slammed the sentence handed to the offender as a joke

    Case study 2 — victim and offenders’ names suppressed

    A MOTHER’S “weak” sentence for sexually abusing her daughter to make child pornography sends pedophiles a signal that they can offend with confidence, the girl’s father says

    http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/s...-1226940821137

  2. #2
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    I find it disgusting that this is only just now an issue.

    My vote is a resounding YES.
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  3. #3
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    yes from me as well

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    There are just so many of these types of cases in which the sentence isn't what it should be. I recall this one from when it was in court earlier this year.

    This woman killed a mother & her unborn child, still managed to keep her license. Not long after that she then had another "accident". It's through darn luck she didn't kill anyone else in the second accident.

    February 11, 2014

    A grandmother who drove into and killed a pregnant woman at a Cleveland festival has been banned from driving for life.

    Clare Hansson, 78, received a four-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death in Brisbane District Court on Tuesday

    The court also heard Hansson was charged over a similar offence in Newstead in January last year, when she mounted a kerb in Newstead and struck several signs.

    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/quee...#ixzz33f4PyNzH

  5. #5
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    There's also been a lot of cases involving violence against women and children that have seen offenders get light sentences compared to the horrific harm they've caused, but I think that's an all-states issue in this country that seems to be getting addressed a bit more there days (I'm thinking the 30 years non-parole in Tanilla's case was pretty good).

    If the parents of a raped child could have a lawyer give a present and projected impact statement on the harm it's done, we may one day see more pedos get put away for decades --before--- they actually murder a child and cause harm to potentially hundreds more.

    The amount of pedos and rapists walking free after horrific crimes, only to re-offend again and again, came to national attention with Jill Meagher, particularly, and I wonder how much suffering might have been avoided if the victims of earlier crimes got a say in how long these scum got be in prison.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ausgirl View Post
    I find it disgusting that this is only just now an issue.

    My vote is a resounding YES.
    Yeah, just what we need: another set of lawyers (or maybe multiple sets depending on how many victims there are) who have to agree on elements of prosecution.

    Your system will grind to a halt.

    And rich victims will get a very different result from the justice system than poor victims.

    If the law is too lenient, fix the law. But the whole point of a justice system is that we give up our passion for vengeance to live in a civilized society. We do that by defining most crimes as crimes against society and allowing society's representative (the DA) to fight for justice.

    Does it always work perfectly? Obviously not. But the loved ones of victims SHOULD be unreasonable! It won't be helpful to make them full participants in the process.

  7. #7
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    1. We can't know from an example here or there if this is a common problem. Before we create an entirely new market for lawyers, somebody needs to produce legitimate research.

    2. If you want a statement of future impact on a child, why do you need a lawyer? At best, a child psychiatrist would do better, and could be employed by the state so that the rich don't get better advocates than the poor.

    But, frankly, I think "future impact statements" are works of creative fiction. If your laws against violence toward women and children are too lenient, then lobby your legislators to change the laws!

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    That's a really good point, Nova. Perhaps what we need is a -national- referendum on sentencing laws and practises in Aus. I am sure many a judge has wanted to hand out a harsher sentence, only to find his hands tied.

    I stand by my comment that it's disgusting it's only an issue now. I think my rush to agree with the question of lawyers comes from the fact that so many re-offend after inadequate sentences.

    And I do think the impact on the victims and their families -should- be taken strongly into account. But who speaks for them in court?
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by marlywings View Post
    There are just so many of these types of cases in which the sentence isn't what it should be. I recall this one from when it was in court earlier this year.

    This woman killed a mother & her unborn child, still managed to keep her license....
    The jazz pianist was also “disqualified absolutely” from holding a driver's licence, meaning she can never again apply to get behind the wheel.
    Am I misreading or conflating two cases? Seems to me she did NOT get to keep her license.

    The problem of people driving after they are too old to do so safely isn't really an argument for victims having lawyers. (Nothing prevents anyone from hiring a lawyer, BTW. One doesn't need a special law to do so.)

    I suspect the problem is that old people VOTE and few politicians want to risk offending that constituency by requiring regular driving tests after a certain age.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ausgirl View Post
    That's a really good point, Nova. Perhaps what we need is a -national- referendum on sentencing laws and practises in Aus. I am sure many a judge has wanted to hand out a harsher sentence, only to find his hands tied.

    I stand by my comment that it's disgusting it's only an issue now. I think my rush to agree with the question of lawyers comes from the fact that so many re-offend after inadequate sentences.

    And I do think the impact on the victims and their families -should- be taken strongly into account. But who speaks for them in court?
    In the U.S., most serious crimes allow the victims to speak for themselves before sentencing. We also have some of the toughest sentences in the developed world and a lot of mandatory minimums, so I think the victim impact statements are mostly symbolic, yet important nonetheless.

    (You Aussies always scare me by being up when it's so late here. LOL.)

    I actually think we've gone overboard, but Americans have managed to get most felony laws strengthened drastically even though our crime rate has been falling for 30 years. It was all done by pressuring legislators in wake of famous cases such as those you detail.

    (BTW, our laws sometimes vary quite a bit, state by state. I don't know if that's true in Australia. I mean I know you have states and territories; I just don't know how much your laws vary from place to place.)


  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nova View Post
    But, frankly, I think "future impact statements" are works of creative fiction.
    Not when there's traumatised children involved, or life-changing injuries.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ausgirl View Post
    Not when there's traumatised children involved, or life-changing injuries.
    Fair enough. I'll grant you that future medical expenses may be estimated (though please let's use accountants rather than lawyers). The same is true of a victim who needs permanent care.

    But I'm not sure we have a profession that I trust to predict future reactions to trauma. Current impact, sure. But future? That's a wide range, but maybe I'm not giving shrinks enough credit. LOL.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nova View Post
    Am I misreading or conflating two cases? Seems to me she did NOT get to keep her license.

    The problem of people driving after they are too old to do so safely isn't really an argument for victims having lawyers. (Nothing prevents anyone from hiring a lawyer, BTW. One doesn't need a special law to do so.)

    I suspect the problem is that old people VOTE and few politicians want to risk offending that constituency by requiring regular driving tests after a certain age.
    She voluntarily handed in her license after the second crash.

    September 8, 2012 - killed woman & her unborn baby. Still had her license.

    January, 2013 - charged over a similar offence

    February 11, 2014 - faced court for both the above.

  14. #14
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    Well, I definitely think they should be given a bigger voice.

    http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/west...-1226273699007

    This is a story that happened right in my community. I didn't know this kid, but he went to my high school and people I knew knew him. Basically he was sitting in his car, dropping off his friends after going to the movies (I think) and this driver who was 1) a L plate driver driving by himself, 2) doing 30-50km over the speed limit, in a 50km residential area and 3) drunk hit him and killed him. Do you know what he got for his sentence? 4 years in jail but eligible for parole after 2, a $1000 fine and a 2 year driving suspension. I mean, that's not as light as the sentence the lady in the first story got for her son who was killed in a car accident, but it's still really light. The thing is though, I watched the community mourn this kid and felt it too, so we all kinda went through this grieving process and it really does suck when it feels like justice hasn't been done. I mean, this kid was 17! He had his whole life ahead of him! And for taking his life (and making three extremely bad decisions that were all against the law) he gets (most likely) two years in jail?

    I think I even remember talking to someone who knows his mum and she said that he didn't even apologise to her, and I think that's a huge thing depending on the person (I seemed like it was a huge thing for her)

    I feel that there's two issues here at the moment.
    1) Offenders don't learn anything by light sentences, like what that guy was saying about the mother who was a pedophile. If a pedophile will only get 26 months for those awful acts, then they might take a risk. They're back out in the world after 3 years, after all. Just like drivers aren't going to avoid drinking and driving by getting a few hundred dollar fine or a few month suspension on their license. A two year suspension with a $1000 fine might be enough to stop them from drinking and driving though (and if if were up to me I'd definitely give out that - drinking and driving is so dangerous)
    2) Victims don't feel like they get justice. Obviously I understand everyone's understanding of justice lies elsewhere, but I think everyone feels a fine and a suspension is in no way justice for the man in the first article who died, or a jail sentence with parole after 2 years is not justice for the teenager in my community. And that 26 months in jail for the pedophiles is not justice for the little girl on the receiving end of those horrible, horrible acts.

  15. #15
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    But since there's no evidence that even the death penalty deters crime, why would we assume offenders will be deterred by some extra years in jail.

    Two years in jail is probably an eternity to a teenager (particularly one who isn't otherwise a hardened criminal). There's no way even so short a term won't forever affect his life.

    Since there was no intent to kill in his actions, why would he be deterred by longer terms for manslaughter?

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