New sentence upheld in case of historical sexual abuse

Date: Jan 21, 2020

On 26 July 2019, a respondent in a sexual assault case received an aggregate sentence of 30 months for seven charges. The assaults to which the respondent pleaded guilty occurred between 1968 and 1990, when he served as a Catholic priest, and involved the abuse of victims under the age of 16.

Following the initial sentencing, the Crown appealed the judge’s sentencing decision in a 20 November hearing. The appeal focused on the fact that the initial judge’s logic in setting the sentence may have overlooked section 25AA(1) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act, just making mention of 25AA in the decision.

That appeal was upheld upon issuance of orders 17 December, and the sentence extended to 3 years with a non-parole period of 18 months. The longer sentence will start on the same date as the initially agreed term.

Crown argued for more time
The crux of sentencing in serious crimes such as sexual assault is to enforce deterrence and denunciation of the convicted party’s actions. The Crown argued that in this particular case, that standard was not met.

According to the appeal, there were several flaws in the way the initial judge determined the aggregate sentence for the many crimes under consideration. For instance, some of the reduction in overall time came because the trial for historical offences had been delayed. However, the judge failed to reason why old crimes of a sexual nature do not receive immediate trials, and the fact that the respondent had “escaped justice for decades” between the time of the offenses and the trial.

The appeal emphasised that the respondent frequently used the trust placed in him as a priest to silence his victims. It noted that the initial judgment appeared to use “fairness” in sentencing as the guiding principle behind the amount of time given, which represented undue weight. The judge’s initial sentence seems to have overlooked section 25AA(1) as well, which sets sentences for historical sexual abuse in accordance with standards in place at time of sentencing, rather than when the crimes occurred.

Can victims receive compensation for historical sexual abuse?
As this case and its appeal show, the legal system is thankfully paying attention to cases of historical sexual abuse, and making attempts to ensure the perpetrators of these acts receive punishment in line with modern legal standards.

If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, you can pursue justice and compensation for the crime. You can speak with the legal specialists and consultants at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to learn more about your options for legal action.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.