Smh said:Crime and punishment: the fallout
August 17 2002
An unprecedented 55-year sentence imposed on a gang rapist looks set to be as divisive as the crimes themselves. Gavin Lower reports.
Is the 55-year jail sentence imposed on the leader of a rape gang as shocking as the crime?
Criminologist Mark Findlay and some sections of the legal fraternity say it is.
But the young women who were his victims say justice has been done.
Politicians, the most vocal being New South Wales Premier Bob Carr, are also saying justice has been served.
The 20-year-old gang rapist, whose family maintains he is innocent, yesterday lodged an appeal against the sentence, under which he would not be eligible for parole for 40 years.
But most sections of the community are celebrating.
Lawyers, psychologists, commentators and the public are all expressing their opinions of NSW District Court Judge Michael Finnane's decision on Thursday to sentence the ringleader of a gang of rapists who terrorised Sydney in 2000 to a total of 55 years' prison on 21 charges.
The total sentence is so long because the penalties for each of the three attacks the youth led will be served one after the other, rather than concurrently. While concurrent sentencing is more common, some lawyers believe consecutive sentencing is more appropriate in this particular case.
But others in legal circles say the severity of the sentence - most murderers get far less - is disproportionate to the crime, and that a new benchmark has been set.
On those questions the debate is just beginning.
On other questions the debate has been raging for more than a year.
Should the offender, and others awaiting sentencing for similar crimes, be named?
Many of those charged over the gang rapes were juveniles at the time. In criminal proceedings, juveniles cannot be named. However a judge has the discretion to allow their identification when they are sentenced if it is in the interests of justice.
Sensing the community's outrage over the rapes, much of it driven by front-page coverage in the tabloid press, Mr Carr has called for the adult perpetrators to be named, saying people deserved to know who committed the horrific crimes.
"Justice has been served," he said after the sentence.
"It is also a vindication of the bravery of the young women who gave evidence.
"This is the sort of sentence the community expects. The community wants tough sentences in cases of wanton violent crime."
Mr Carr said he would change the law if necessary to make it possible to name such criminals. But he may not have to, as Justice Finnane told the District Court he saw no reason in law for the adult perpetrators of gang rapes not to be named.
The name of the 20-year-old ringleader has been suppressed because his brother is awaiting sentence for his part in two of the pack rapes carried out in August 2000.
Judge Finnane yesterday said he would hear legal argument about whether to release the man's name on September 6.
He said the adult perpetrators should not expect to remain anonymous.
"There's no reason in law to keep their names secret," Judge Finnane said yesterday. "The names of all these (adult) people should be made public."
Professor Findlay, a criminologist at the University of Sydney, said the sentence was disproportionate and set a dangerous precedent. "The sentence is as shocking as the crime," he said.
"This is obviously an extreme case but it's still longer than any of the sentences handed down for murder.
"Proportionality is an issue in all sentencing... so that our justice system makes sense."
John North, an executive member of the Law Council of Australia, said balance needed to be retained in the NSW criminal justice system.
"It would be very difficult to tell the parents of girls who are murdered that a 20-year sentence was sufficient if 40-year sentences are being handed down where people are not murdered," he said.
But NSW Rape Crisis Centre manager Karen Willis said the sentence would help restore faith in the justice system.
"Hopefully now, women will think 'well perhaps there is some justice in the system and if I do go forward I will be treated with respect'," she said.
Judge Finnane has also sentenced two of the other rapists - Belal Hajeid, 20, to 23 years' jail with a non-parole period of 15 years, and Mahmoud Chami, 20, to 18 years' jail with a non-parole period of 10 years.
Judge Finnane said neither he nor his colleagues had heard of such atrocious crimes against women, apart from war-time offences.
The first reports of gangs of youths attacking and raping young women in Sydney's south-western suburbs emerged in August 2000.
Paradoxically, they took place in August and September, as Sydney was immersing itself in Olympics bonhomie.
Fourteen men of Lebanese Muslim background, some related to each other, have been convicted at trial or pleaded guilty to the attacks on seven teenage girls. The crimes sparked a rise in ethnic tensions when it was revealed the attackers had made racial slurs against their victims.
During one rape, a victim was told she would be "f----- Leb style" and was called "an Aussie pig".
Sydney's Lebanese Muslim community condemned the attacks but reported receiving death threats and warnings that their women would be targeted for retaliation rapes.
The cases contributed to an intense debate over links between ethnicity and crime and prompted a forum of ethnic community leaders which demanded an end to such linkages.
Mr Carr was criticised for insisting that police use ethnic descriptions of offenders if they felt it would lead to an arrest.
In contrast to Judge Finnane's sentences, NSW District Judge Megan Latham last year sparked an outcry over his lenient sentencing of two brothers and another teenager involved in the gang rapes of two 16-year-old girls.
The girls had been taken to a house in Villawood, in Sydney's south-west, and raped after they had been left stranded at a train station and accepted an offer of a ride home from a group of men.
Community outcry over the sentences, up to six years for the brothers and 18 months for the other man, prompted the government to increase the maximum penalty for gang rape from 20 years to life imprisonment.
The sentences were increased on appeal.
All 14 of the gang rapists have been disowned by the Lebanese community, with leaders saying those who committed a crime beyond imaginable human behaviour should be put away for life.
If the rapes had occurred in Lebanon, they pointed out, the offenders almost certainly would have been put to death.
You may also find it has different spellings as the case was originally recorded wrong..wrong_turn said:the case most familiar for self-defence is McNaughton v R. this is when the normal person test is applied, also known as the McNaughton Test. this is to fetermine whether the person would have acted in the same way as the accused.