Tania Maxwell MP has repeated her call for community safety to be prioritised over the interests of prisoners, following numerous recent court proceedings where COVID-19 has been a factor in reduced sentences and granting of bail.
Ms Maxwell said it was frustrating that, despite assurances from the Government that legislation implemented to provide flexibility in response to the pandemic was not relaxing sentencing provisions, there were multiple cases emerging where COVID-19 was expressly cited as a reason for reduced sentence or bail.
Ms Maxwell said that sentences were being shortened because of judges and magistrates taking into account the ‘supposedly significant’ impact of the coronavirus on prisoners.
Ms Maxwell also questioned how the courts intend to monitor behaviours and conditions of serious offenders if there are diminished reporting requirements whilst on bail.
Ms Maxwell said COVID-19 would not make life materially worse in prisons than for anyone else in Victoria and that clear direction needed to be provided to the courts that COVID-19 should not be a mitigating factor for reducing a sentence or granting bail.
Examples of the impact on sentencing, include the cases of:
• Rodney Madex, who was allowed to finish his sentence at home for his crime of shooting his daughter, Tammy, in the head with a rifle at their home near Traralgon.
• Todd Sell, who was sentenced only to time already served in custody for his involvement in helping two accused murderers after the death of Maddison Parrott in Geelong in December 2018.
• Jerome Tennison, who received a 18 month Community Corrections Order for the sexual assault of a drunk teenage girl in a taxi in 2017.
• Morey (pseudonym), who was given a reduced sentence for multiple sex offences and breaching bail conditions.
Ms Maxwell said there were a further string of cases in Victoria where offenders accused of serious crimes have been released on bail because of likely COVID-19 related delays to court hearings.
Comments attributable to Tania Maxwell MP:
“I’m very concerned that serious offenders are being released earlier as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and this puts our community at increased risk.”
“COVID-19 will not make life materially worse in prisons than for anyone else in Victoria. Our courts need clear direction that COVID-19 should not be a consideration to grant bail or reduce sentencing, particularly for serious offences.”