I haven’t written much about the restorative justice project recently. We’re still doing research and preparation work, which is, to be honest, incredibly depressing much of the time! i spent a very depressing day last week researching rates of recidivism, and the connection between the de-institutionalisation of mental health services in the Kennett government era and the increase of people with mental health issues in the prison system. the issues just get bigger and bigger.
I was listening to the radio while doing the research… People from melbourne would be aware of a much-publicised, terrible case of a young woman who was sexually assaulted by a group of young men last year. They videotaped the assault and sold the dvd to their schoolmates [details of the assault are even more horrific than that description hints]. Sentencing for the crime was handed down to some of those charged last week – they involved strict youth supervision orders, including some really tough re-education programs and community service. none of them were given custodial sentences.
There was an outraged response to the sentencing by talkback radio announcers and newspaper columnists. Noel McNamara, who describes himself as an advocate for victims of crime gave a quote to the media: “Once again the legal system has let down this young girl and her family and the rest of society.” Letters to the editor were vitriolic, full of outrage on behalf of the family. There was a united opinion that the young men should be sent to prison – preferably an adult prison – for very long periods of time.
It’s interesting that when Jon Faine from ABC radio actually asked the young woman’s father, Alan, what they thought of the sentencing, he said that this was the sentence they had been after. They wanted the boys to have a chance to come out of this better people. When he was asked why he wasn’t vengeful, he said “when you’re actually in it, you realise that there’s only one way to go. it’s about healing and trying to make the world a better place. “