Saturday, March 10, 2007
Australia: Piffling sentence for violent rape
The victim had a knife held to her throat, was handcuffed, gagged, raped twice, choked until she thought she would die and robbed. Her attacker was a 22-year-old on “Ice” with 99 prior convictions. An appeal court judge described the crime as cruel, relentless, violent, humiliating and degrading. And the judge said the rapist’s original six and a half year minimum sentence was “manifestly inadequate”. So why wasn’t it increased?
This is another one of those cases that make you wonder whether the scales of justice are tipped in favour of the criminals.
The victim, a 52-year-old woman with a mild intellectual disability identified only as “Ms M”, was attacked as she returned from shopping to her room at a residential hotel in Melbourne.
Jason John Dinsley ambushed her at the door to her room, grabbed her around the neck, held a knide to her throat and forced her inside. She was handcuffed, had a wad of paper forced in mouth to keep her quiet, raped twice and then choked. The choking only stopped when she told Dinsley she would give him money. Dinsley then tied the woman’s hands and feet and took her bank card to an ATM, where he withdrew $20 to buy cigarettes.
The victim was so shattered by the experience she could no longer live independently in Victoria and moved to Darwin, where she had family support.
Dinsley pleaded guilty to seven counts, including rape, aggravated burglary, robbery and assault and unlawful imprisonment. The sentences on the seven counts totaled 19 years. The longest individual sentence was eight years for the most serious of two rape charges. The original judge, however, decided that the total sentence should be the eight years for rape, with only an extra year on top for the assault. All the rest would be served concurrently. He imposed a non-parole period of six and a half years.
Victoria’s DPP appealed against the sentence on the grounds it was manifestly inadequate. Victoria’s Appeal Court agreed. “In my opinion, the toal effective sentence was so manifestly inadequate that it gives rise top the inference that an error in principle occurred,” the appeal court judge said in a ruling on March 1.
“Whilst the sentences imposed for the individual counts can be accepted as being within the range for these offences, the orders for cumulation produced a total effective sentence which did not adequately reflect the gravity of the offences or the moral culpability of the offender.”
But under Australian law it’s not that easy to increase a sentence. Appeal courts have to take into account a form of double jeopardy, which prevents a defendant from effectively being sentenced twice for the same crime – once by the original judge and a second time by an appeal court. Crown appeals on the grounds of inadequate sentencing can only be granted in “rare and exceptional cases”.
“But for that principle, I would have allowed the appeal and re-sentenced the respondent (Dinsley) to a longer term of imprisonment,” the appeal court judge said.
I wonder whether it comes as any comfort to “Ms M” to know that there was nothing rare or exceptional about her traumatic ordeal.
(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)
Posted by bussorah at 6:44 PM