‘It’s a joke’: Sexual predators walking from Qld courts

ONE of the country's leading child protection agencies says the Queensland Government's soft treatment of sex predators and perverts is "betraying the community".

Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston believed the Attorney-General's department was shirking its responsibility in keeping our children safe and accused soft judges of exploiting "wiggle room" in legislation that sets legal precedents.

She said the "downright stupid", "dysfunctional" and "dangerous" "joke" had to stop.

Bravehearts Founder Hetty Johnston AM belives the Attorney-General’s department was shirking its responsibility in keeping children safe. Pic Peter Wallis
Bravehearts Founder Hetty Johnston AM belives the Attorney-General’s department was shirking its responsibility in keeping children safe. Pic Peter Wallis

Ms Johnston's scathing attack comes after a number of child sex offenders walked from court in recent weeks, despite being convicted.

They include a man who masturbated in front of a 13-year-old girl and a number of men caught with child abuse images.

"The community want to know that kids are safe and that when the authorities come across people who are unsafe for children, that they're dealt with appropriately," Ms Johnston said.

"That means punishment and/or some sort of treatment, something that would give the community confidence when that person is released that they're no longer a risk to kids.

"It's a joke. All you have to do is sit inside the courts for one day and see what you see.

"You'll see how out of whack everything is and how downright stupid and dangerous it all is. It's dysfunctional and nonsensical."

Hetty Johnston said something had to be done to give people confidence when child sex offenders were not a risk to kids once they are released.
Hetty Johnston said something had to be done to give people confidence when child sex offenders were not a risk to kids once they are released.

She said it was up to the Government to represent the community they serve.

"Governments make the legislation that the courts impose. There is a separation, but there is also a collaboration in that.

"When they create collaboration, that is not meeting community expectations. It's up to the politicians to change it, to fix it, so that it does. And they're not doing that to the extent that the community is satisfied.

"We vote for the politicians to represent us, that Parliament House is all about legislation and laws, you bet your bippy. At the end of the day it's the parliamentarians we have to hold accountable for this.

"The judges will have their own views and if there is any wiggle room in legislation that they can weaken it or soften it, you can bet that sooner or later a soft judge will find it and they'll use it and that will stand as precedent in case law."

Approached for comment on whether the decisions met community expectations, a spokeswoman for Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath sent a one-line statement to the Bulletin.

"Sentences are imposed by independent judiciary based on all the specific facts and circumstances before them," the statement read.

Ms Johnston said it "was not good enough''.

"They (magistrates) are doing that based on the legislation created by the Attorney-General, the Cabinet and the government of the day.

"They can't walk away from their responsibilities with that political gobbledegook.

"What a betrayal of the community. That takes no responsibility. Do they think we're stupid? Seriously."

Opposition leader Deb Frecklington has hit out at the Government as the community loses faith in the justice system.
Opposition leader Deb Frecklington has hit out at the Government as the community loses faith in the justice system.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said it was no wonder the community had lost confidence in the justice system.

"Our jails are overcrowded and overflowing and serious violent offenders are being let out on bail and parole as a result," Ms Frecklington said.

"Violent crime is rampant across the Gold Coast with domestic violence on the rise, organised crime gangs on the streets and the terrifying ice epidemic destroying our families and communities.

"If the laws aren't being enforced, it's up to Labor to change them."

Frustrated police are also at the end of their tether, with sources telling of dismay at the release of a number of accused criminals.

"All we can do is lock them up," one said. "What happens from there is out of our control."

 

Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath’s office sent a one line statement to the Bulletin about community concerns around judicial punishments
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath’s office sent a one line statement to the Bulletin about community concerns around judicial punishments

Bond criminologist Dr Terry Goldsworthy said the courts should be meeting community expectations on punishment.

"It (community expectation) should play a role. The courts are a reflection of the wider community,'' he said.

"While they may be independent from the other functions of government or police, they are there to represent the community as the arbiters of justice.

"There would be an expectation their sentencing should reflect community standards.

"Having said that, that doesn't mean we have to pillory everyone against the fence, and have a lynch mob mentality."

He said it would be impossible to jail every offender who went through the court system.

"You can't jail everyone, unless you have billions of dollars to build new jails,'' he said.

"We know that jail isn't necessarily the best place to try to rehabilitate people and many can be rehabilitated and not become recidivist offenders."

 

Maximum penalties for offences

* Indecent treatment of a child under 16 - Liable to imprisonment for 14 years.

* Possessing child exploitation material - 5 years imprisonment.

* Using the internet to procure children under 16 - 10 years imprisonment.



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