Justice system reform needed

John Herron has been left devastated by a criminal justice system he believes is failing in its primary duty to protect the community.
The Riddells Creek resident and Gisborne lawyer has vowed to campaign for increased protection for the community and adequate monitoring of violent offenders following the murder of his daughter, Courtney, in a Melbourne park in May last year.
Before Courtney’s murder, perpetrator Henry Hammond was released from prison four months early on appeal, having been imprisoned for a previous violent attack on another woman.
Remarkably, Hammond was released by a judge to no fixed address, homeless and free to roam the streets. He killed Courtney in a frenzied attack just six weeks later.
“Hammond was found not guilty due to mental impairment and could be released after spending a few years in a psychiatric hospital,” Mr Herron said.
Courtney’s murder now joins a string of cases of Victorian women killed at the hands of violent offenders released on parole.
After the murder of Jill Meagher in 2012, the public demanded action.
The state government responded by introducing the Corrections Amendment (Parole Reform) Bill 2013 following a review by former High Court Justice, Ian Callinan, that found the parole system had become overly skewed in favour of the offender at the expense of victims, their families and the broader community.
Callinan recommended “potentially dangerous parolees” should only be granted parole if they could satisfy the Parole Board that their risk of reoffending was negligible.
The Bill amended the Corrections Act to provide that safety and protection of the community was paramount in parole decisions.
But instead, Mr Herron said, what actually occurred was an escalation in these attacks on women.
“And by men who had been let loose on the community with little monitoring nor assistance,” he said.
“These perpetrators received these sentences after the Crown took the path of least resistance.
“Decisions based on risk management, not the two parties the State is mandated to protect – the victims and the community.”
Mr Herron said the solutions to address the problems with the justice system were already at hand, citing the need to make the judiciary more accountable, including practice directions that did not allow perpetrators of violence against women to have their charges diminished by the time sentencing was made.
“And that’s just to start,” he said.
“It’s very important in a functioning democracy that the public has confidence in the judicial system and process.
“Unfortunately, that has taken a dent over the past few years, especially in the sentencing of violent perpetrators.
“At the moment, nobody wants to take responsibility.
“A response from the Attorney General to our family’s correspondence has not been forthcoming; on the other hand the opposition parties have displayed an appetite for reform and addressing the legislation.”
Mr Herron is also advocating for greater support for victims and their families.
After Courtney’s murder, when he found his family was in need of counselling and reached out for support, he was referred to the Men’s Helpline – a support line for men who have committed domestic violence.
“Victim support in Victoria has been outsourced and it shows,” he told the Express.
“After the initial media attention died down, support dropped off a cliff. We had to make our own enquiries around Melbourne for details about Courtney’s death.
“I’m at the good end because I know the system, but there’s many people who come to me who have just been left in the dark.
“There’s nowhere to go; they’ve got limited or no support. That’s especially the case for the Macedon Ranges, where support for domestic violence victims, in particular, is patchy at best,” he said.

One thought on “Justice system reform needed

  • November 10, 2020 at 9:17 pm

    This is a shocking and unimaginable situation. The law should be there to protect the innocent and the vulnerable. The law is not there primarily to give perpetrators of violence a second chance. They have had their chance – or in this case at least two chances. The victims and their families don’t get a second chance. Just what on earth do the lawmakers and the judiciary think they are doing? Madness.


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