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Little or No Jail For 11% of Rapists

More than one in ten men convicted of rape received a wholly suspended sentence between 1999 and 2004, statistics reveal.
Released by the Sentencing Advisory Council yesterday, the statistics show that 166 men were sentenced for rape during the period. Six per cent of the total received wholly suspended sentences and 5 per cent received partly suspended sentences.
The proportion of men sentenced to immediate imprisonment increased from 70 per cent to 79 per cent between 2000 and 2002 and has remained around this level since.
Sentencing Advisory Council chairman Professor Ari Frieberg said the council had recommended abolishing suspended sentences as a sentencing option "and these figures reveal why it is an issue".
Last year, about 10,000 people rallied at Parliament House to object to "soft sentences" handed to sex offenders.
The rally was sparked by the wholly suspended jail sentence given to David Leslie Sims, who was convicted of two counts of rape, indecent assault and aggravated burglary.
Professor Frieberg said the proportion of men sentenced to jail for rape, and sentence lengths for rape, had increased in recent years.
He said that in mose cases men prosecuted for rape faced multiple charges, and that the sentence imposed for rape had to be considered in the broader context.
The average effective imprisonment period for rape fell from seven years (with an average non parole period of four years and 10 months) in 1999 to six years and one month (with an avergae non parole period of four years) in 2001.
But Professor Frieberg said this figure increased to seven years eight months in 2003, with an average non parole period of five years and five months.
Apart from one indefinite sentence, the longest total effective sentence was 22 years and nine months.
All 166 people sentenced for rape between 1999 and 2004 were male. More than one in five- 23 per cent- received sentences other than immediate imprisonment.
Other than those who received suspended sentences, 3 per cent were sentenced to youth detention, 3 per cent received community based orders, 2 per cent received intensive corrections orders and 1 per cent a hospital security order.
Professor Frieberg said those who had lighter sentences may have included young and intellectually disabled offenders with no prior convictions accused of less grave sexual assaults.
In 2003, the Victims of Crime Compensation Tribunal granted 102 compensation applications by rape victims and, on average about $6000 was awarded to each victim.

The Age (15-3-2005)
Fergus Shiel

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