NSW Sentencing Council ignores national crisis of murders of women in murder sentencing report

The NSW Sentencing Council has ignored the national crisis of murders of women in its murder sentencing report released on 27 May 2021 by refusing to strengthen murder sentences.

The report paid ‘lip service to the national crisis of murders of women’ and ‘lip service to victim families’ but kept the status quo.

This Murder Sentencing Review was called by the NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman in 2018 in response to the fact that sentences for murder in NSW are not consistent with community expectations.

We have a national crisis of violence against women – both sexual violence and domestic violence. One in five women are sexually assaulted and one woman a week is murdered.

The government has a number of levers to address violence against women and strong sentencing is a critical lever in the prevention of these murders, hence why this Murder Sentencing Review was called.

Yet the NSW Sentencing Council have kept the status quo and have not recommended any changes to strengthen sentencing for murder with sexual assault or murder with domestic violence.

It’s shameful. The NSW Sentencing Council has let the community of NSW down and failed to protect women’s safety.

I called for the crime of murder with sexual assault to receive a mandatory life sentence with no parole.

I made a 29 page Preliminary Submission on 8 March 2019 to inform the consultation paper and a 39 page Submission on 7 February 2020 in response to the consultation paper.

I also called for murder with sexual assault to be made a stand alone crime to reflect its gravity and to enable specific sentencing. For example to create a 19C (Mandatory Life Sentences for murder with sexual assault).

This would bring the crime of murder with sexual assault in line with 19B (Mandatory Life Sentences for murder of police officers). The intention behind the mandatory life sentence without parole for the murder of police officers was to provide an effective deterrent against the murder of police officers.

Based on this rationale, a life sentence for murder with sexual assault will also provide an effective deterrent against the rape and murder of women and children.

And it is the only way to guarantee the rapist murderer won’t repeat his crime.

A mandatory life sentence with no parole for the crime of rape and murder meets the sentencing purposes of just punishment, crime prevention, community protection, community condemnation, making the offender accountable and recognising the harm done to the victim and their loved ones as well as the community.

Mandatory life sentencing without parole for rapist murderers also ensures certainty, equality and consistency of sentencing for the offenders, the victim families and the community.

It is my belief that strong sentencing for the crime of rape and murder will send a strong message in society and help to reduce all violent crimes against women.

Yet the NSW Sentencing Council report did not even pay the respect of answering my arguments in its report.

It is disingenuous for the NSW Sentencing Council to invite victims to make submissions only to arbitrarily dismiss their views.

Michael Guider’s victim Samantha Knight’s mother Tess Knight also made a submission calling for life sentencing without parole for rapist murderers including child rapist murderers. Yet Ms Knight’s submission was treated with the same dismissive attitude that mine was. Her arguments were not addressed.

Rape and murder is a gender hate crime which strikes fear into the hearts of all women in the community.

Anne-Marie Culleton was raped and murdered in her flat in the middle of the night while she was sleeping

I am advocating for this law reform as the sister of Anne-Marie Culleton who at just 20 years old was brutally raped and murdered by Jonathan Bakewell who broke into her Darwin flat in the middle of the night to rape and murder her in her bed. This crime is every woman’s worst nightmare.

It was a horrific cold blooded rape and murder in which Anne-Marie was strangled to death. My sister Anne-Marie died a terrifying, cruel, torturous and degrading death at Bakewell’s hands.

Bakewell received a life sentence with no parole in 1989 but they changed the laws in 2004 and reduced his nonparole sentence to just 20 years. 20 years is not a life sentence. Since being parolled Bakewell has breached parole four times for taking drugs, the same drugs he took the night he raped and murdered my sister, yet the parole board in SA where Bakewell was transferred while a prisoner and released, keep releasing him.

Bakewell is a sadistic rapist murderer – a dangerous man made even more dangerous due to his drug taking. It was after Bakewell’s second breach in 2019 that I broke my silence and called for his parole to be cancelled and for an urgent review of the parole system in South Australia for repeatedly releasing him.

Adelaide Advertiser 9 October 2019 p15 Read more >>

In 2019 I fought a nine month campaign for Bakewell’s parole to be revoked. I also wrote to the SA Premier Steven Marshall, the Attorney General Vickie Chapman and then Police Minister Corey Wingard calling for an urgent overhaul of the parole system.

I also mounted a media campaign and the Labor Opposition asked questions in parliament of Premier Marshall.

Yet I was unsuccessful and the SA Parole Board released Bakewell in October 2019 after four drug breaches. And my call for a review of the parole system was ignored by the Marshall government.

As I write this post Bakewell is back before the Parole Board for a fifth potential drug breach. Once again I have called for Bakewell’s parole to be cancelled and once again I have called on the Marshall government to overhaul the South Australia parole system. Once again my calls have been ignored.

In 2019 I also made my submission on 8 March to the NSW Murder Sentencing Review, with the hope that by sharing my lived experience of over 30 years of the entire spectrum of political and judicial decisions relating to this crime, my call for mandatory life sentencing without parole for murder with sexual assault would be heard and actioned.

I also called for the rape and murder of children to receive a mandatory life sentence with no parole and I called for domestic violence murders to receive a life sentence with no parole.

This represents true justice for the victims and their families and is the only way to guarantee the offender will not repeat their crimes.

I am appalled that murder victim families like mine made submissions calling for life sentencing with no parole for the murder of women and children and waited two years for this non-outcome. This opportunity for strong sentencing for the murder of women and children has been squandered.

I am calling on NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman to listen to the voices of women and men calling for strong sentencing laws for murder with sexual violence and domestic violence.

Thousands of women marched around Australia in the March4Women on 15 March calling for government action against sexual assault.

I spoke at a NSW March4Women rally about my petition for law reform for mandatory life sentencing without parole for murder with sexual assault and I received strong support. Over 5,000 people have signed my petition calling for this law reform so far.

Eileen Culleton speaking at March4Justice 2020 photo Lyne McCarthy

The NSW Sentencing Council is out of step with the mood of the nation when it comes to listening to victims.

Grace Tame’s Australian of the Year win represents a shift in the nation that says we value victims voices, victims experiences and victims insights.

The NSW Sentencing Council response has not valued victims voices. Its response is a serious slap in the face to victim families of women and children murdered.

Enough is enough. It is time for action. If you agree with me, I encourage you to contact the NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman to call for mandatory life sentencing without parole for murder with sexual assault.

I also encourage you to sign my national petition calling for law reform for mandatory life sentencing with no parole for rapist murderers.  

Together we can make law reform a reality.

Together we can make our nation safer for women and children.

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