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Top Prosecutor Jeremy Rapke Wants Tougher Jail Terms

VICTORIA'S top prosecutor wants courts to impose tougher jail sentences for serious crimes.
Director of Public Prosecutions Jeremy Rapke, QC, said the public was justifiably outraged when people who committed the worst crimes were given soft sentences, or no jail at all.
He was especially concerned at low sentences given to murderers, rapists and drug dealers.
Mr Rapke has begun lodging appeals against murder and rape sentences and is waiting for an appropriate drugs case to take to the Court of Appeal.
Mr Rapke told the Herald Sun he would ask the court to set new, tougher sentences to meet the concerns of a frustrated community.
Sentences often bore no relation to the maximums set down in legislation.
"Judges are failing to have regard to what the legislature has provided as the appropriate sentence," he said. "They are not looking at what the maximum penalty is."
Mr Rapke also believes Victoria needs night courts to help clear the logjam of untried cases.
It was not unusual for a County Court criminal case to take years.
Mr Rapke last night told politicians, judges, lawyers and senior police at a dinner celebrating the DPP's 25th anniversary that the criminal justice system "simply cannot cope with today's demands".
He said the number of pleas and trials waiting to be heard in the courts were at record highs.
He called for consideration of the removal of juries in long and complex cases and time limits to cut the length of submissions by lawyers.
The DPP said never before had so many appeals against convictions been allowed.
The Court of Appeal allowed 57 per cent of appeals concluded so far this year and the number of acquittals on appeal had risen from 5 per cent of appeals five years ago to 29 per cent this year.
The Office of Public Prosecutions has appealed against the two attempted murder sentences given to CBD killer Christopher Wayne Hudson in the Supreme Court last month.
Mr Rapke described the 12-year sentences for the attempted murders of Hudson's girlfriend, Kaera Douglas, and Dutch backpacker Paul de Waard as "manifestly inadequate". Although the maximum term for attempted murder was 25 years, he could think of no case where a criminal had been sentenced to more than 15 years for the offence. "It seems to me that if you have an offence the sentencing judge categorises as being in the worst category of that offence, why are they getting less than half the maximum?" he said. "What is the maximum reserved for? "The community is looking at the court and saying, `Just a moment, somone here nearly died in this incident'. "I've appealed on specific offences because in my judgment they are falling out of kilter with community expectations." Mr Rapke said it was in drug trafficking and sex offences that sentences were most out of line with the maximum terms and community expectations. He has launched an appeal in a case where an offender raped a young female victim in a park and got six years with a four-year minimum. "Rape carries a very significant penalty and people are not getting it for some very nasty rapes," he said. Mr Rapke also said he made no apology about focusing on the rights of victims to be heard. "When at the sentencing stage should the only voice be that of the offender?" he said.
"Why shouldn't victims say, `Your Honour, please take into account the hurt that I've suffered'."

Herald Sun (28-10-2008)
Norrie Ross-Geoff Wilkinson

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