Prosecutors are appealing Borce Ristevski’s six-year sentence for killing wife Karen. Picture: David Crosling
Prosecutors are appealing Borce Ristevski’s six-year sentence for killing wife Karen. Picture: David Crosling

Why ‘silent’ Ristevski deserves more jail time: DPP

BORCE Ristevski's "silence" on how he killed his wife is a significant aggravating factor the sentencing judge gave insufficient weight to, the prosecution has argued in its bid to have him caged for longer.

The Director of Public Prosecutions launched an appeal amid public outcry after Ristevski was jailed earlier this year for a minimum of six years for killing his wife, Karen. The head sentence was just nine years.

Chief prosecutor Brendan Kissane QC has told the Court of Appeal the Ristevski case was not one where an explanation had been given that it was an "accident".

"Something bad must have happened inside that house," Mr Kissane told the court. "We say his silence has a number of impacts.

"It's difficult to say you're remorseful when you're not prepared to say what occurred. It also has an impact in leaving the other family members in circumstances where they do not know what occurred to their loved one.

Karen and Borce Ristevski, with their daughter Sarah.
Karen and Borce Ristevski, with their daughter Sarah.

"The court will have seen the many victim impact statements where a considerable amount of grief was expressed - part of the grief was not knowing what occurred on the day in question. That continued up until the time of the trial and plea, and continues to this day - that they're in a position of not knowing what occurred."

Three judges - the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria Anne Ferguson and justices Simon Whelan and Phillip Priest - are overseeing the hearing.

Ristevski, 55, appeared at the Court of Appeal hearing via video link from prison, wearing a white shirt and tie. His hands were clasped on the table in front of him.

He only spoke three words, replying "yes I am" when asked to confirm his identity.

Mr Kissane also made a point of the length of the Ristevskis' relationship, saying they had been been married for 27 years.

He argued that the killing of Mrs Ristevski was a "significant breach of trust".

"The longer the relationship, the more entitled one is to feel safe in one's own home; it's not an irrelevant matter that they'd been together a long time," he said.

Karen Ristevski’s badly decomposed body was found wedged between two tree trunks. Picture: Nicole Garmston
Karen Ristevski’s badly decomposed body was found wedged between two tree trunks. Picture: Nicole Garmston

"This was a killing where there was some evidence of minor arguments ... if anything, it was surprising that it occurred."

However, Borce Ristevski's barrister, David Hallowes, SC, said the longevity of the couple's relationship was irrelevant.

He drew on a character reference provided by the couple's daughter, Sarah, in his argument, where she described her father as the "calm one".

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson responded: "Looking at it the other way, it's all the more puzzling how it came about."

There was also a terse exchange after Justice Whelan said Ristevski "killed his wife in her home for no apparent reason", only to be corrected by the defence, who said it was "an unknown reason".

But Justice Whelan said: "There is no evidence of reason so there's no apparent reason for what he did."

Mr Hallowes described Ristevski as "a man of good character", urging the judges to balance his character with the aggravating factors, including his lies and dumping of Mrs Ristevski's body.

 

Borce Ristevski carrying his wife’s coffin at her funeral. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian
Borce Ristevski carrying his wife’s coffin at her funeral. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian

 

Earlier today, the DPP said in written submissions to the court that the sentencing judge:

• FAILED to fix a sentence commensurate with the circumstances of the offending;

• GAVE too much weight to the lack of information about the unlawful and dangerous act;

• FAILED to have sufficient regard to significant aggravating features when determining the nature and the objective gravity of the offending, particularly in the context of family violence and the breach of trust;

• HAD insufficient regard to the impact of Ristevski's offending on the victims;

• DIDN'T giving sufficient weight to the principles of general deterrence, specific deterrence, denunciation and just punishment;

• FAILED to have sufficient regard to the maximum penalty for the offence; and

• PLACED too much weight on the matters in mitigation, particularly in light of the lack of remorse, including his plea of guilty and prospects of rehabilitation.

Karen's brother Stephen Williams is sitting in the front row of the hearing.

 

Borce Ristevski’s web of lies came undone — but he has refused to reveal how his wife, Karen, died. Picture: David Crosling
Borce Ristevski’s web of lies came undone — but he has refused to reveal how his wife, Karen, died. Picture: David Crosling

 

After the sentence in April, he told reporters outside court: "We didn't get justice."

A judgment is not expected to be handed down until a later date.

Ristevski had always denied any involvement in his wife's disappearance.

He told police they had a fight about finances and she stormed out of their Avondale Heights home on foot on June 29, 2016.

The father of two's lies about what happened to his wife of 27 years continued even after her body was found wedged between tree trunks in Mt Macedon eight months later.

He did not cave until the eve of his trial when the prosecution was forced to downgrade the charge to manslaughter instead of murder after a Supreme Court ruling they could not rely on post-offence conduct to prove murderous intent.

With the new indictment filed, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Borce Ristevski with daughter Sarah during an early appeal for information. Picture: AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy
Borce Ristevski with daughter Sarah during an early appeal for information. Picture: AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

 

Prosecutors had pushed sentencing judge Christopher Beale to consider it a serious example of the crime, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years' jail.

Aggravating factors, they said, included that Mrs Ristevski was killed in her own home where she should have felt safe, before being placed in the boot of her own car, and driven to bushland where he dumped her body.

His web of lies, lack of remorse and refusal to say how she died also made his crime more serious, they argued.

But Justice Beale, in handing down his sentence in April, said the lack of knowledge about Mrs Ristevski's death made it impossible to determine the seriousness of his crime.

The mother's death could not be determined because her body so was badly decomposed.

rebekah.cavanagh@news.com.au



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