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 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.
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.
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.
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 canmake law reform a reality.
Together we can make our nation safer for women and children.
I also called for rape and murder to be a stand alone crime to reflect its gravity and to enable specific sentencing.
For example 19C (Mandatory Life Sentences for rape and murder).
This would bring the crime of rape and murder in line with 19B (Mandatory Life Sentences for murder of police officers).
The sentencing act also needs to be framed in a similar way to 19B to ensure that as per section (2), (4) and (5), the life sentence is for the term of the person’s natural life, it is mandatory and no other law or act can authorise a court to impose a lesser or alternative sentence.
This also means that ‘mitigating factors’ would not apply to the crime of rape and murder just as they do not apply to the murder of a police officer.
This blog post provides an overview of key arguments presented in my submission in response to the Consultation Paper and my preliminary submission 2 on 8 March 2019 to inform the Consultation Paper.
I believe it is time to bring back life sentencing
where life means life in prison. Rapist
murderers should never get a second chance to rape and murder. Our society
needs a zero-tolerance policy towards rapist murderers and this should be
reflected in sentencing.
Strong sentencing for the crime of rape and murder
will send a strong message in society and help to reduce all violent crimes
I am advocating for this law reform as the sister of Anne-Marie Culleton who at just 20 years-old was raped and murdered by Jonathan Bakewell who broke into her flat in Darwin in the middle of the night when she was sleeping on 23 February 1988.
Rape and murder is a gender crime which strikes fear into the hearts of all women in the community.
The brutal rape and murder of my sister while she
was asleep in her flat is every woman’s worst nightmare.
Despite Bakewell being given a life sentence with no
parole in 1989, the laws in the NT were changed to grant parole to life
sentence murderers in 2003 and he was released in 2016 in South Australia where
he had been transferred while in prison to
be near his family.
Since his release Bakewell has breached parole four times for
taking drugs – the same drugs he took the night he raped and murdered my sister – yet the South Australia parole board keeps releasing him.
This was despite a 53 page submission I made to the parole board, members of
the public coming forward with new information, letters to politicians,
questions asked in parliament and a media campaign. These pleas fell on deaf
Bakewell was released for the fifth time on 18 October 2019. I am horrified about this and am convinced from the new information that I received from members of the public during my media campaign that Bakewell is as dangerous today as the day he raped and murdered my sister.
No woman in Australia is safe from Bakewell. He had breached parole and was on the run from South Australia when he travelled to NSW, QLD and the Northern Territory where he raped and murdered my sister.
Sex offender rehabilitation programs don’t work
My call for life sentencing for the crime of rape and murder
is also driven by the fact that there is no guarantee that prison rehabilitation
works. In fact there is plenty of evidence that sex offender rehabilitation
programs don’t work.
One prime example is rapist murderer Terrence Leary. 17-year-old Vanessa Hoson was asleep in her family home in Sydney in 1990 when Leary broke in, attacked and murdered her. 3
Prior to his parole release after his murder of Ms Hoson, Leary had been deemed a “model prisoner” who had ‘ticked all the boxes’ for his rehabilitation. The then Attorney-General Greg Smith reported “ Mr Leary completed programs to address his drug and alcohol issues and sex offending behaviour prior to his release on parole.” 4
completed a university degree in prison – a Bachelor of Arts studying sociology
Despite Vanessa Hoson’s family’s protests, Leary
was released on parole and in 2013 tried to rape and stabbed a woman at a bus
stop. The victim is only alive today because the police arrived on the scene in
time to save her. When the police arrived Leary was in a frenzy and attacked
incredulously, Judge Syme, in sentencing Leary for his rape and knife attack on
the woman at the bus stop, still took into account Leary’s rehabilitation programs
in prison before his parole release – when evidently the prison rehabilitation
programs did not work.
This was despite the judge saying Leary was still a danger to the community because no one could be sure he wouldn’t suffer another outburst.
“His unpredictability makes his management in the community a challenge,” 5 Judge Syme said.
“Not all forms of antisocial behaviour can be treated through therapy.”
Yet Justice Helen Syme still did not give the maximum penalty for this second attack – Leary’s sentence was 11 years and three months and he will eligible for parole in 2024.
It is critical to note, if a so called “model prisoner” like
Leary could repeat his crimes once released into the community, this is clear
evidence that sexual offending rehabilitation programs do not work. It is also
evident that psychiatrists and psychologists who also have input to parole
release applications cannot predict human behaviour.
Sex offenders are faking their way through programs
ABC Journalist Jill Meagher’s rapist murderer Adrian Bayley admitted to faking his way through a sex offenders program to get early release. 6
Bayley is a prime example of a repeat violent sex offender who escalated to murder. Bayley had a long history of rapes spanning more than 20 years.
If Bayley admitted faking his way through a sex offenders program to get early release, this begs the question, how many other prisoners have faked their way through sex offenders programs?
Even the experts question the effectiveness of sex offender treatment programs
A report prepared by the Australian Institute of Criminology for the Office of the Status of Women, “Recidivism of Sexual Assault Offenders: Rates, Risk Factors and Treatment Efficacy” found the effectiveness of treatment of sex offenders to be questionable:
“While it is assumed that treatment will reduce the risk of sexual recidivism, the evidence is ambiguous. There have been few systematic evaluations of treatment programs and no definitive results regarding treatment efficacy.”7
Sex offender recidivism rates demonstrate that rehabilitation programs do not work
The countless examples of sex offenders repeating their
crime after being released from prison point to the fact that sex offender
rehabilitation programs do not work.
While there has also been little research on Australia sex offender recidivism rates, in the Australian Institute of Criminology report 8 one study of 402 prisoners found 27% were found to have at least one previous conviction for a sexual offence.
The Australian Institute of Criminology report also stated
that sex offender recidivism rates are underestimated due to the lack of
recorded data for this crime. One reason for this is that repeat sexual
offenders may be identified for the principal offence for which they were
convicted, which may not be the sexual offence.
Also, importantly, according to a Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Personal Safety Survey 2016, the majority of women (9 out of 10) who were sexually assaulted did not contact the police (87% or 553,900). 9
When you consider that of those rapes that are reported,
only a small percentage proceed to trial, it makes estimating sex offending
recidivism rates problematic.
What is clear from the existing evidence is that sex
offender rehabilitation programs do not work. Hence why we need to err on the
side of women’s safety. No risk to a woman’s life is an acceptable risk.
The lack of research to track murderers repeat offending
There is a glaring lack of research to track repeat offending of murderers let alone rapist murderers. In a Centre for Criminology article “Counting the risk of murderers re-offending” by Roderic Broadhurst, Professor of Criminology and Ross Maller, Professor of Probability and Statistics at the Australian National University, the authors note that no state correctional authority in Australia has undertaken studies of repeat offending of homicide offenders. 10
So on what basis is the judiciary making sentencing decisions to grant parole to rapist murderers?
Lifelong harm to victim family members
A mandatory life sentence without parole for the crime of
rape and murder will serve to recognise the life lost of the victim and the
lifelong harm inflicted on their loved ones.
As a murder victim family member, who at 19 years old, lost my 20 year old sister Anne-Marie Culleton, when was raped and murdered in her flat in 1988, the harms I have suffered have been lifelong and will continue to be.
To assist the NSW Sentencing Council reviewing my law reform submission, to understand the lifelong impacts of murder on family members, I shared some of the impacts on my life.
I shared how as a 19 year old university student, the rape and murder of my sister impacted me to the extent that I did not just lose my sister, I lost my youth, my future, my dreams, my idealism, my peace, my sense of security and my joy. I felt like the light had gone out of my world.
I was traumatised, devastated and heavily weighed down by
grief and the senselessness of it all. Anne-Marie was a beautiful, talented, 20
year old young woman with a bright future ahead of her. With dreams she never
got to realise.
Anne-Marie’s rape and murder in her home at night is every
woman’s worst nightmare and it became mine. I lost my sense of personal
security and safety and suffered from post-traumatic stress. I became anxious if
I was at home alone, even during the day. I suffered nightmares and would often
stay awake until dawn – then I would feel safe enough to sleep for a few hours.
This went on for a number of years.
The trauma of Anne-Marie’s murder also impacted my
relationships. After finishing university I never returned to Darwin to live as
I could not bear the memories, or the societal stigma, and it was hard to even
go home to visit.
To think of the nature of her death causes me great anguish.
This was made worse by seeing the police video re-enactment of Anne-Marie’s
murder broadcast on television. It tortures me to think about the terror and
suffering that my sister endured at her death. I wish I could erase the images
from my mind.
To this day, watching the news and seeing crimes of rape and
murder triggers memories of Anne-Marie’s murder, and my heart goes out to the
victims and their families, thinking of their agony. It is why I am fighting
for law reform.
The impact of judicial decisions on the murder victim family
Over the 32 years since my sister’s rape and murder, I have experienced the impact of the whole spectrum of judicial decisions: of justice being served with the original sentence of life without parole; of justice being ripped away with a law change to enable parole; of the offender’s appeals all the way to the High Court of Australia to get his non-parole period reduced; his release on parole; the offender breaching parole four times; my unsuccessful fight to have his parole revoked and the offender’s latest release for the fifth time on parole in October 2019. Even if Bakewell’s parole is finally revoked, I face a lifetime of fighting, because he can reapply for parole every 12 months.
The impact of parole release on the murder victim family
In my submission I outlined the impact of Bakewell’s parole release.
That I did not initially fight his parole release due to the re-onset of PTSD.
But that after his two parole breaches for taking drugs – the same drugs he
took the night he raped and murdered my sister I felt I had no choice but to
I outlined my nine month battle in 2019 to have Bakewell’s parole cancelled; a battle which, as stated earlier in this post, was unsuccessful.
I am devastated by the constant stream of murder victim
families like mine who are forced to fight the parole release of their loved
one’s rapist murderer. It should not be up to the murder victim families to
have to fight to keep the community safe. And to suffer the compounded trauma of
being unsuccessful and living in perpetual fear the offender will repeat their
crime. This is a cruel and intolerable burden on victim families.
In my submission I referenced campaigns and petitions to
fight the release of rapist murderers Michael Guider, Neville Towner, Dante
Arthurs and Terrence Leary, but there are many more.
We have a national crisis of violence against women
I am also calling for law reform to protect women. To
prevent more victims of rape
and murder. We have a national crisis of
violence against women.
1 in 5 women in Australia are sexually assaulted. 11
We don’t have statistics for the rape and murder of women because the government doesn’t collect them – because rape and murder is not a specific crime. It needs to be.
One in four women don’t feel safe walking the streets in their local area alone at night 13
One in four women don’t feel safe waiting for public transport after dark 14
One in 10 women don’t feel safe home alone at night 15
The Personal Safety Australia 2016 survey with statistics above was undertaken before the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon in 2018 and Aiia Maasarwe in 2019 – crimes which shocked and outraged the nation and have made women feel even more unsafe.
As the men and women of Australia have clearly demonstrated through their outrage and nationwide public vigils in response to the rape and murder of Aiia Maasarwe, Eurydice Dixon and Jill Meagher, we havea national crisis.
When women don’t feel safe walking the streets at night, we have a national crisis.
When women don’t feel safe being alone at home at night, we have a national crisis.
Our justice system is broken
When rapist murderers do not receive the available maximum
sentence of life with no parole, our justice system is broken.
When rapist murderers are allowed to appeal the severity of
their sentence, our justice system is broken.
When rapist murderers who received the maximum sentence of
life with no parole, have their sentence redetermined to grant them parole, our
justice system is broken.
There is little chance today for the crime of rape and murder to receive a life sentence without parole
A life sentence for
the term of the offender’s natural life is not a realistic prospect for a rape
and murder case today.
The recent sentencing in Victoria of Codey Herrmann in
October 2019 for the rape and murder of Aiia Maasarwe powerfully exemplifies
The judge, Elizabeth Hollingworth said the crime was not
deemed to “warrant the imposition of the maximum penalties”.
Yet this was, by any community standard, a horrific crime.
It involved a man brutally attacking, raping and murdering a young woman
walking down a public street. It involved the rapist murderer also setting fire
to parts of her body in an attempt to destroy DNA evidence.
This rape and murder of Aiia Maasarwe sparked an outpouring
of public outrage, not just in Melbourne, but in vigils across the country
including in NSW.
Even the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison described the murder as “sickening”.
“This was a disgusting crime. It is sickening this sort of violence against a woman was committed in Australia,” he said on Twitter. 16
Yet the judge did not deem it to “warrant the imposition of maximum penalties”.
The fact that Justice Hollingsworth made this judgement clearly demonstrates how broken our justice system is, and the depths of injustice to which our justice system has plummeted in relation to the crime of rape and murder.
Sentences for rape and murder are becoming progressively weaker due to current sentencing practices
Despite community outrage and Australia wide vigils in
response to the recent rape and murders of Aiia Maasarwe and Eurydice Dixon,
and the call for life sentencing, the prosecution did not call for a life
sentence with no chance for a non-parole period.
Nor did the judges apply that sentence despite having the
power to do so.
I believe this is due to the fact that the hands of the
judges are tied by the practices of precedent and comparing sentences. So even
if a judge did apply the maximum sentence of life without a chance of parole,
it would be swiftly undone by the subsequent criminal appeal that would find
that the judge ‘’erred’’ in relation to practices of precedent, comparing
For instance Jaymes Todd did not even get the maximum sentence of life without parole 17for his rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon – he will be 55 when he is eligible for parole – yet he is appealing. His appeal was announced during the sentencing trial for Corey Hermann’s rape and murder of Aiia Maasarwe by the defence lawyer Tim Marsh who is acting for the offenders in both cases.18
Crimes of rape and murder are ranked according to a hierarchy of depravity
The current sentencing practice of comparing cases of rape
and murder is perpetuating a spiralling degradation of justice as judges and
lawyers rank the rape and murder of women according to a macabre hierarchy of
The crime of rape and murder is an inherently extreme,
horrific, abhorrent, violating crime against women. It is a crime which should
not be macabrely dissected and ranked.
Yet this is exactly what is going on in our courts today. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth compared Aiia Maasarwe’s rape and murder with the recent rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon because that is ‘current sentencing practice’. This involved the judge comparing key ‘aggravating’ and ‘mitigating’ circumstances of each rape and murder. For example the judge said:
“On the one hand, Mr Todd killed his victim with his bare hands, rather than a weapon. He also did not commit any aggravating act, such as setting fire to the body.”
“On the other hand, unlike in this case, Mr Todd’s offending involved substantial premeditation. He had had a long-standing sexual fantasy to rape and strangle to death a woman, for more than a year.”
It was due to this ‘ranking’ process that the judge found, in relation to the rape and murder of Aiia Maasarwe, “the case does not warrant the imposition of the maximum penalties.”19
If Aiia Maasarwe’s rape and murder did not warrant the maximum life sentence, what will? This judicial practice of precedent and comparing current sentencing practices has resulted in a broken justice system in relation to sentencing for crimes of rape and murder.
This is why we need mandatory life sentencing for the crime of rape and murder. And this is why the crime of rape and murder needs to be a specific offence.
The crime of rape and murder needs to be a specific offence
Rape and murder is a crime of the highest objective
seriousness in the eyes of the community and this is why it needs to be a
specific offence to reflect its gravity and to enable specific sentencing.
Currently rapist murderers are sentenced for the murder and
rape separately. This is the wrong way to characterise the crime and results in
the rape and murder being macabrely dissected and ranked according to a
hierarchy of objective seriousness.
As discussed above, I believe this practice is perpetuating
a spiralling degradation of justice as judges and lawyers rank the rape and
murder of women according to a macabre hierarchy of depravity.
This results in the crime as a whole being minimised and
sends the wrong message to the community.
I believe that crimes that involve both rape and murder
needs to be treated as a stand alone crime carrying a mandatory life sentence
without parole to reflect the gravity of the offence.
The mandatory life sentence without parole for the crime of rape and murder would reflect the totality principle which requires that the overall sentence is a just and appropriate measure of the total criminality involved, while ensuring that it meets the different objectives of sentencing.
Sentencing purposes of a mandatory life sentence without parole for the crime of rape and murder
The proposed mandatory life sentence without parole for the crime of rape and murder meets the purposes of sentencing under NSW law 20 in the following ways:
ensure that the offender is adequately punished for the offence
prevent crime by preventing the offender and other persons from committing similar offences
protect the community from the offender
condemn (denounce) the conduct of the offender
make the offender responsible (accountable) for his or her actions
recognise the harm done to the victim of the crime and the community
A life sentence will enable true justice to be done.
A life sentence willprevent
released to recommit their crimes – so preventing more victims.
A life sentence willact
as apowerful deterrentto
men considering raping and murdering a woman – because
they will be locked away for life.
A life sentence will send a message of zero
tolerance to the rape and murder of women.
A life sentence willsaywe
value the lives of women.
sentencing without parole for rapist murderers will also ensure certainty,
equality and consistency of sentencing, which are key pillars for ensuring
public confidence in the justice system.
Law reform for mandatory life sentencing without
parole for rapist murderers will deliver true justice, act as a powerful
deterrent against violence against women and help to keep women safe.
Call to action for law reform
While my platform is the crime of rape and murder of women, in my submission to the NSW Review of Sentencing for Murder and Manslaughter, I called for law reform for sentencing for three murder crimes:
I called for the crime of rape and murder to receive a mandatory life sentence with no parole.
I believe 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. My reasons are outlined in this blog
post and in detail in my submission.
called for the crime of rape and murder of a child to receive a mandatory life
sentence with no parole
I believe this sentence will reflect
the gravity of the offence and society’s condemnation of this crime and help to
reduce violent crimes against children.
called for domestic violence related murder to receive a life sentence with no
The key reason for this is the
national crisis we have with domestic violence murders. One woman a week is
murdered in this country in domestic violence situations. Millions of dollars
is being spent nationally on programs to address this issue, yet weak
sentencing is undermining the message.
I believe strong sentencing will
reinforce society’s condemnation of this crime and act as a powerful deterrent
for violence against women.
I commend the NSW government for their national leadership
in calling for this NSW Review of Sentencing for Murder and Manslaughter and
truly hope the NSW Sentencing Council and the government will be strong and set
a precedent Australia wide in addressing the crime of rape and murder which is
a scourge on our society and ongoing risk to women’s safety and sense of safety.
Together we can call for mandatory life sentencing without parole for the crime of rape and murder. Together, we can make our community a safer place for women.