OPINION: Loopholes in parole for repeat offenders

JILL Meagher should have woken up that Saturday morning with a slight hangover and pleasant memories of a night on the town with her workmates.

Adrian Ernest Bayley should be just another violent crook known only to those unfortunate enough to have crossed his path.

Even in the world of criminals he is recognised as a bottom feeder. An opportunistic coward who has to be protected from fellow inmates.

When he was interviewed by homicide detectives six days after the murder he arrogantly denied any involvement until confronted with overwhelming evidence. And then he began to cry – not for his victim but for himself. They were crocodile tears from a reptile.

He told police: ‘‘They should have the death penalty for people like me.’’ But then he initially chose to plead not guilty, hoping to pressure prosecutors to accept his offer of pleading to the lesser offence of manslaughter.

Only when the Office of Public Prosecutions refused to buckle did he plead guilty – in the hope of being ‘‘rewarded’’ with a reduced sentence.

Make no mistake, this tragedy should never have happened.

When the Adult Parole Board failed to act when notified by police that Bayley had been arrested over an August 2011 vicious assault in Geelong it created a chain of events that would end in murder.

And even when he pleaded guilty and was jailed for three months he was not breached because he was released pending his appeal over the severity of sentence.

So the Parole Board missed the opportunity – not once but twice – to lock up a man who was a clear risk to the public.

As a direct result of the Jill Meagher case the government has tightened the rules and in February this year announced that any violent offender is deemed to have breached parole the moment they are charged with another violent offence.

If that system had been in place last year Jill would have wandered home along Sydney Road, Brunswick on September 22 and wouldn’t have been followed by Bayley, to be raped and murdered in a nearby lane.

Bailey should have been in jail, serving the remainder of the 11 years from his 2002 sentencing for a series of rapes.

But he wasn’t.

Parole is an essential part of the criminal justice system and is an effective management tool inside and outside of prison.

Those who call for a no-tolerance approach fail to understand that nearly every offender is eventually released.

And parole gives authorities a measure of control. Parolees must regularly report, agree to be drug tested and can be monitored to make sure they are not committing crimes.

In effect it is a contract. We will let you out early if you promise to behave.

And used effectively it can identify those who are heading off the rails before they return to committing serious offences.

Inside prison it helps control inmates. Good behaviour, clean urine samples and completing training courses can result in an early release.

Take away any incentives and there can be tragic consequences.

Just last week another man with no redeeming features, Leslie Camilleri, pleaded guilty to the 1992 abduction murder of Glenroy schoolgirl Prue Bird.

Police say the 13-year-old was killed on the instructions of the men behind the 1986 Russell Street police station bombing.

Prue’s grandmother Julie’s partner, Paul Hetzel, was a key prosecution witness in the case and detectives are convinced Prue’s death was a vicious, pointless and futile form of payback.

Camilleri is already serving a life sentence with no minimum over the 1997 murder of Bega schoolgirls Lauren Barry and Nichole Collins. This means there is no incentive for Camilleri to tell the truth and implicate others in the murder of Prue Bird. He has refused to tell police where he left the body. And he will not serve one extra day’s jail.

Now the state government is reviewing parole and has added the experienced and sensible former Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe to the Board.

But there remains a massive loophole in the system.

It is not an offence to breach parole. You are simply sent back to jail to serve what you already owe.

This means police can’t access usual investigative tactics to find a parole violator such as using phone and bank records.

Yet if you are bailed and don’t turn up you can be charged.

Both parole and bail are exactly the same. You are released on conditions that you promise to uphold.

As Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye once remarked, “If this is justice I’m a banana”.

Read ‘If parole worked Jill would be alive”here

BOTTOM FEEDER: Adrian Ernest Bayley is ushered by police to the Supreme Court.

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