As reported by ABC News 20/8/2013
The Callinan review of Victoria’s parole system has found that violent criminals have been released into the community without proper consideration of public safety.
The report, by former High Court Justice Ian Callinan, was handed to the State Government today.
It was commissioned after a series of murders committed by parolees, including the murder of former ABC staffer Jill Meagher who was murdered by Adrian Bayley while he was on parole.
The report has found it has been too easy for inmates to secure parole and has recommended making it harder for serious violent and sexual offenders to be released.
The report says the Adult Parole Board must be certain that inmates have a negligible risk of reoffending in order to protect the public and that all parole approvals should be reviewed by another panel.
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine says the review recognises there is a very real need to fix the state’s parole system.
He says dangerous prisoners have been given the benefit of the doubt but that changes today.
“This report draws line in the sand. The culture of parole in Victoria must and will change,” Dr Napthine said.
“Today I make this firm declaration.
“The safety of the community will be the highest priority for the Adult Parole Board.”
Recommendations of the Callinan review
•Consideration should be given to the appointment of a recently retired judge of the Supreme Court to chair the parole board.
•Victims should be informed at least 14 days before an offenders’ release on parole.
•The ratio of offenders to parole officer or supervisor needs to be reduced.
•The board should report publicly on all homicides and other serious offences committed by parolees.
•A new and comprehensive electronic database and case-management system needs to be established as quickly as possible.
Corrections Minister Edward O’Donohue says the report reveals the system is tilted too far in the favour of the offenders.
“The Government is determined to drive cultural change in the parole system and many of the recommendations can be implemented immediately,” he said.
“Others will require more work.”
Noel McNamara from the Crime Victims Support Association is disappointed that the report has not recommended that parole hearings be open to the public.
“It’s got to be transparent. This secret service business from the parole board, where the victims’ families don’t know anything about the past of these people or why they got parole and that’s an absolute disgrace in itself,” he said.
Justice Callinan’s review created a wave of criticism by the families of some of the victims of parolees, including Ms Meagher’s husband Tom, who said they were not consulted.
Mr Meagher met privately with Mr Napthine to discuss the issue last week.
The ‘notorious case of Bayley’
Mr Callinan gave extensive attention to the Jill Meagher case in his review, calling it the “notorious case of Bayley.”
He says there do exist “incorrigible offenders who, despite the best efforts for their rehabilitation, must… be classed as habitual serious offenders.”
Mr Callinan took a swipe at the information provided to his review on decisions made to release Bayley on parole.
“We asked for and were provided with the Bayley file which did not disclose the names of the members of the panel that granted parole to Bayley,” he said in his report.
He described the file as ill-organised and that it had no single document containing straight-forward information about or analytical material relating to his criminal history.
Mr Callinan’s review says the parole board decided to “await the result” of the charges laid against Bayley for an assault in Geelong.
The review states the parole board “reiterated the expectations of him (Bayley) under parole.”
However Corrections Victoria is also blamed for delays in the decision-making about Bayley’s case.
The report says Corrections Victoria produced a report suggesting the parole board await the outcome of Bayley’s appeal against his 3-month sentence for the assault.
Bayley was on bail for the assault when he killed Ms Meagher.
Raechel Betts, 27, was killed by a double murderer who was on parole in 2009.
Her mother, Sandra Betts, is calling for qualified risk assessors to be included in a new system where a second panel would review all successful parole applications.
“We need to see safety experts such as chartered fellows of the Safety Institute of Australia or similar risk assessment professions,” she said.
“We need to have forensic psychologists. People who can assess public safety in greater numbers than the judiciary.”
In a statement, the Adult Parole Board welcomed Mr Callinan’s review, especially the acknowledgment that the board is under-resourced.
The board also supports the emphasis on public safety and says it is looking forward to working with the State Government to implement changes.
Legislative changes introduced earlier this year mean that sex offenders and serious violent offenders will automatically have their parole cancelled if they are convicted of other offences.