I’m sure many Cats recall a series of horrific rape crimes committed in Sydney in the early noughties. The judge who presided in the subsequent trial has written his memoirs and it got extracted in the AFR. Some highlights:
Sexual intercourse without consent must be the worst crime after murder, because it involves a person invading the body of another, usually violently. It is a crime that assaults human dignity. During the sentencing process at the end of the Skaf trials, I expressed the view that what this gang did was worse than murder. I continue to hold that view. What the Skaf gang did was to enable multiple men to defile and degrade four young women. None of these young women will ever forget their experience at the hands of this gang.
When I commenced the summing up, I said this:“This is the 21st century since the birth of Christ; we are not in the 19th, 18th or 17th centuries. Whatever they might have done in those centuries, the law is now perfectly clear – any woman is entitled to refuse consent to sexual intercourse at any time. There is no concept in our law that there is a category of person called loose women who are deemed somehow to consent and certainly there is no law that merely because a young woman might give an indication that she was friendly with someone and didn’t protest too much when they were laying hands on her that she therefore was consenting to anything. That is not the law.”
I considered that I should say these words because it was important that the jury and anyone listening to the trial, including the accused, have a full realisation that a woman has to do nothing more than refuse consent. She does not have to fight to the death to protect herself from sexual assault.
The principles of sentencing required that I consider three important matters: retribution, deterrence and rehabilitation.
What that meant in this case was that I had to have regard to each offence of which the offender was convicted and had to fix a sentence for it. Then I had to have regard to whether some sentences should be served concurrently with others and whether some should be served cumulatively or partly cumulatively on others and I had to have regard to the total sentence. In Australia, courts do not impose sentences that are so extreme they could go beyond the life of the offender.
Sentenced to 55 years
In this case, by applying the principles that I have just mentioned, I imposed a head sentence of 55 years with a non-parole period of 40 years.
To my mind, the community deserved to be protected from Bilal Skaf for many years. I do not believe he will ever acknowledge the seriousness of what he did. He will remain a threat to the community.
My sentence on him was substantially reduced by the Court of Criminal Appeal, which also reduced the sentences on some of the others involved, but not all of them. I have no intention of attempting to justify my sentences. My views on sentence were not those of the judges of the Court of Criminal Appeal, but their sentences prevail.
RTWT – a bit long but well worth it.