MAXIMUM TERMS RARELY IMPOSED AS DOUBTS EMERGE ON SENTENCING REFORM
Rapists are receiving average sentences of just five years in prison, a fraction of the maximum available penalty, with question marks lingering over whether new laws for “standard sentences” will have any effect on judges.
As the nation’s courts face accusations of being out of touch and soft on crime, analysis of rape sentencing statistics has shown how rarely the crime is punished with the full extent of the legislated available penalties.
Figures compiled for The Weekend Australian by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show the average head sentence imposed for sexual assaults was four years and three months last year, up from three years and eight months in 2012.
The average non-parole period is two years and eight months, up slightly from two years and one month in 2012. Sexual assault carries a 14-year maximum penalty in NSW, or 20 years in aggravated circumstances or potentially life imprisonment when other people are present, such as during a gang rape.
The latest data released by Victoria’s Sentencing Advisory Council shows the average rape sentence in 2015-16 was five years and three months, up slightly from four years and nine months in 2011-12.
In cases where rape was the principal offence, the most common length of imprisonment imposed was between four and five years. The maximum sentence available is 25 years in prison.
In Queensland, the average custodial sentence length for rape was 5.2 years. Figures were not readily available for other states.
In South Australia, where seven rape cases were finalised with prison sentences last year, the average sentence was five years and three months.
Under pressure from soaring crime rates and brazen violent attacks, the Andrews government has proposed setting “standard” sentences for serious crimes, including murder and rape, at 25 years and 10 years respectively.
Courts would be able to deviate from the standard sentence due to aggravating or mitigating factors but must provide reasons.
Attorney-General Martin Pakula has said the changes would help increase sentences, ensuring they were “more in line with community expectations”, but Opposition spokesman John Pesutto said judges were “completely free to ignore” the proposed sentences.
“When parliament stipulates a maximum sentence of 25 years for rape and courts hand down average sentences of five years, that . tells you community expectations are being ignored,” he said.
NSW has already prescribed standard non-parole periods of seven years for sexual assault, 10 years for aggravated sexual assault and 15 years for aggravated sexual assault in company.
The heaviest principal rape sentence imposed in Victoria in recent years was imposed upon Alfio Anthony Granata, who kept a Dutch backpacker as his sex slave in a Melbourne hotel room for six weeks.
Granata pleaded guilty to nine charges of rape plus offences including causing serious injury and threatening to kill his victim, and was initially sentenced to 17 years in prison with a 13-year nonparole period.
Following an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions, that was increased to 23 years with a 17-year non-parole period.
Tom Meagher, the widower of ABC employee Jill Meagher who was raped and killed by Adrian Bayley in 2012, lashed out when his wife’s killer was handed a 15year sentence for what the judge called “a savage, violent rape of the worst kind”, “a disgrace”.
“I don’t know what the maximum sentence is for if not for that man,” Mr Meagher said then.