The opportunistic rape and murder of Jill Meagher 9 months ago left a nation in shock. Devastated for her family, 30,000 took to the streets over the violent, senseless murder of a beautiful young woman.
Jill's husband Tom told the Supreme Court yesterday how haunted he is by his wife's terrifying final moments at the hands of the "grotesque and soulless" serial rapist Adrian Bayley.
Bayley’s sex crimes date back 23 years. Released form prison in March 2010 after serving an eight year minimum for 16 counts of rape against five victims, he'd already committed one crime while on parole. He assaulted a man, breaking his jaw and was jailed for three months. But because Bayley appealed he was bailed and despite a Parole Board review, his parole continued -- another sexual predator freed.
Alan and Shirley Irwin live with the agony of losing not one but two daughters. 23-year-old Colleen and 21-year-old Laura Irwin were both murdered by a career criminal out on parole.
The girls didn’t know their neighbour was a convicted murderer; William John Watkins’ record dating back to 1985 and included convictions for rape, aggravated burglary and assaulting police.
“It’s a terrible tragedy and a great catastrophe for the victims and the community. The Parole Board makes something like three or four thousand decisions a year about whether to release people or not and it’s really a case of managing the risk”, said Professor Arie Frieberg.
Professor Frieberg heads Victoria's Sentencing Advisory Council and says the Adult Parole Board has an onerous responsibility. “In many cases, in fact about 60% of the cases, nothing happens -- when it goes wrong it can go catastrophically wrong”, Professor Frieberg said.
“Parole in Victoria is a privilege not a right”, said Victorian Premier Denis Napthine.
The Jill Meagher killing has rocked Victorian lawmakers to the core, leading to tougher parole laws. An emotional Dr Napthine claimed a further review will build on those reforms. “Sex and violent offenders who commit further offences while on parole will go straight back to jail, straight back to jail. This also applies at the point of charge and conviction which makes this the toughest parole regime in Australia”, he said.
“The alternative is not to let anybody out or not to let serious offenders out and the choice is not between releasing them on parole or for them to stay in jail forever”, Professor Frieberg said.
The so called ‘Rockhampton Rapist’ Leonard Fraser was never paroled -- he did every day of a 12 year jail term, with prison authorities terrified he'd re-offend upon his release.
In 1999 Treasa Steinhard's 9-year-old daughter Keyra was abducted and murdered by rapist turned serial killer Fraser.
Jesse Kelly was once the most wanted man in NSW, on the run after he crashed a stolen car during a police pursuit killing his two best mates. The tragedy sparking the notorious Macquarie Fields riots.
While Kelly assured 7 News he's changed man, the fact is while on parole he was busted for drink-driving and caught again this year driving while disqualified -- his 2011 parole still not revoked.
“You've only got to look at their track records and it will tell you it's going to end up in disaster”, said Noel McNamara, President of Victoria's Victims of Crime Association.
Police and victims groups are left frustrated. Noel’s bugbear is suspended sentences. “We've been pushing for suspended being out now for over 20 years and we've been pushing to get rid of suspended sentences for violent criminals ever since then”, Noel said.
That system in Victoria is under review later this year, as are NSW Parole laws.
Across the country in 2012, 50,169 prisoners were released on parole. “If you don’t release them on parole, if they are ultimately to be released you want them to be under a period of supervision”, said Professor Friedberg.
As for community corrections orders, thieves and fraudsters call that system a joke.
“Victorians expect our cities and towns to be places of safety” said Dr Napthine.
But they’re not. Tonight Victoria Police are hunting 58-year-old paroled killer Clive Stone -- sentenced to life in prison for the vicious 1986 murder of an intellectually disabled woman. It is the third time Stone has breached parole and the public warned not to approach him.