Uproar at sex fiend dad's freedom
NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell yesterday demanded the Premier explain how a man who admitted to 74 counts of sexually assaulting his young daughter could be released into the community.
The Northern Star reported yesterday the 48-year-old Casino man pleaded guilty to 27 counts of having sexual intercourse without consent and of indecent dealing with his daughter during the first seven months of last year, while the girl was aged 10 and 11. He accepted another 47 counts of the same charges, which were attached to his indictment.
However, because the man, who cannot be identified, had been accepted into the Cedar Cottage Pre-Trial Diversion Program, Judge James Black, in the Lismore District Court on Wednesday, was able only to record a conviction before releasing him back into the community.
That triggered a backlash yesterday, with State Clarence MP Steve Cansdell saying he was contacted by the victim’s mother, the man’s former partner, saying she and the victim were shocked and upset the man had not been jailed.
“I’m totally appalled at this,” Mr Cansdell said.
“I can’t believe that here we have a government that, at the end of last year, brought in laws ... to increase sentencing for that crime to life in prison, but they’ve let this guy walk away with 74 counts. I can’t believe this could happen in Australia, let alone NSW or the North Coast.”
Mr Cansdell said he supported Cedar Cottage, but said he understood it was intended for people responsible for comparatively minor child sex offences. In cases such as this, he said the programs ought to be offered to offenders while they were in prison, perhaps offering reduced sentences to encourage them to complete the program.
Shadow Attorney-General Greg Smith yesterday wrote to Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery demanding the case be appealed, while Mr O’Farrell squared off against Premier Kristina Keneally on the floor of Parliament.
Mr O’Farrell asked the Premier to explain how the man could have escaped a prison term simply by entering a rehabilitation program.
A transcript of yesterday’s Hansard was not available last night, but Mr Cansdell said Ms Keneally responded by saying NSW had the best child protection laws in Australia.
A Government spokeswoman said Attorney-General John Hatzistergos was looking into the case.
“The Attorney-General has requested the transcript of this case and sought advice from the DPP with regard to this particular matter,” she said.
“The sexual abuse of children is one of the worst evils affecting our society and the Government has made it clear that it will take all necessary steps to eliminate it.
“Those steps included extending supervision periods for serious sex offenders and continuing their detention if they show no sign of rehabilitation. Sexual assault law has been at the centre of the Government’s reform program.”
A spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said the decision to send the man to Cedar Cottage instead of jail could not be appealed.
She denied he had ‘walked free’ or been given ‘an easy alternative to prison’.
“A large part of the treatment at Cedar Cottage rests on the offenders admitting every aspect of their behaviour,” she said. “They are forbidden contact with the victims and their families. In their time in the (two-year) program they will undergo complex and frequent treatments and therapies to reduce the risk of offending in the future.
“Cedar Cottage is not an easy option or a cop-out. It has been shown to have a high success rate in rehabilitating intra-familial child sex offenders.”
Any offender who breached Cedar Cottage’s rules would find themselves back in court facing a likely jail term.