Life For Rapist Murderers

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I am calling for law reform for mandatory life sentencing with no parole for rapist murderers because they should never be given another chance to repeat their crimes.

I am calling on the Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter to put on the agenda of the next Council of Attorneys-General (CAG) meeting, a law reform to create a new offence "murder with sexual assault" with a mandatory sentence of life without parole

I am also calling on all the state and territory Attorneys-General to work together on this law reform to ensure uniform sentencing across the nation.

I am calling for this law reform as the sister of murdered rape victim Anne-Marie Culleton. In the 32 years since her rape and murder I have experienced the entire spectrum of political and judicial decisions relating to this crime, and I am appalled at how broken the justice system of Australia has become with its weak sentencing and its failure to protect the community.

Today there is rarely true justice for murdered rape victims and their loved ones and the community is not being protected with rapist murderers being released on parole and attacking again.

My sister Anne-Marie Culleton was only 20 when she was raped and murdered by Jonathan Bakewell who broke down her back door in the middle of the night in 1988 to rape and murder her in her bed. This crime is every woman’s worst nightmare.

Justice was initially done, with Bakewell being given a life sentence with no parole and the community was protected. However in 2004 the laws were changed to grant life sentence prisoners parole and Bakewell was released in 2016 at the age of 55.

Since his release Bakewell has breached parole four times for taking drugs, the same drugs he took the night he raped and murdered my sister, yet despite my pleas to cancel Bakewell’s parole, the parole board keeps releasing him. Bakewell is a sadistic rapist murderer. Drugs or no drugs, I believe Bakewell is as dangerous today as the day he committed his crimes and I am living in perpetual fear that he will strike again.

We need life sentencing without parole because prison rehabilitation programs do not work for rapist murderers. Jill Meagher’s rapist murderer Adrian Bayley admitted faking his way through a sex offenders program to get parole release before murdering Jill.

Daniel Morcombe’s killer, child rapist and murderer Brett Peter Cowan, had completed a sex offenders program while in prison for violently sexually assaulting a 6 year old boy, yet upon release Cowan abducted and murdered Daniel who was 13.

Rapist murderer Terrence Leary who murdered 17 year old Vanessa Hoson was considered a model prisoner who completed a sex offender program and even got a social work degree in prison, yet upon release he attempted to rape and murder a woman at a bus stop. And still he has been given another sentence with a non-parole period.

The only way to guarantee community safety is to lock rapist murderers up for life. For the term of their natural life. Not the minimum of 15 or 20 years that is referred to currently as a ‘life sentence’

I am calling for mandatory life sentencing without parole because true life sentences are rarely given today. While murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in most states, judges have discretion to set a nonparole period of as little as 15 years in WA and 20 years in other states. 20 years is not a life sentence.

A woman’s life must be valued equally to the life of the man who took her life so brutally and that must be reflected in a sentence for the term of the rapist murderer’s natural life.

Sentencing for crimes of rape and murder are being reduced based on factors such as the principle of precedent. The crimes are being ranked according to a macabre hierarchy of depravity in which only those deemed the ‘worst of the category’ are given life sentences, such as those who have killed multiple times. How does this protect the community?

It is this logic that was applied to Aiia Maasarwe and Eurydice Dixon’s brutal rape and murders finding they were not deemed ‘worst category’. Murders which shocked and outraged our nation and sparked vigils across the country. Which drew condemnation from our Prime Minister.

Their rapist murderers Codey Herrmann and Jaymes Todd will be eligible for parole release when they are in their fifties. Young enough to strike again. This must stop.

It is also an outrage that sentencing for crimes of rape and murder are being reduced based on ‘mitigating factors’ deemed to reduce culpability. How can anyone argue there are mitigating factors or excuses for raping and murdering someone? This is a crime which by its very nature is deliberate.

Rape and murder is primarily a gender based hate crime. Rape has nothing to do with desire or sexual attraction. It is a hate crime enacted to terrorise, torture and degrade the victim and is about the offender exerting power, control and dominance over their victim.

The crime of rape and murder also needs to be a separate offence because currently the crime is charged and tried as a murder. The rape is treated as secondary and just categorised as an “aggravating factor” of the murder. This crime needs to be tried as its own offence to reflect the true character of the crime. And it means the crime can have its own sentence of mandatory life with no parole.

We have a national crisis of violence against women. One in five women in Australia are sexually assaulted and one woman a week is murdered.

A national crisis demands a national response. We need national laws to send a strong message in society and help to reduce all violent crimes against women.

The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee 2018 Report recommends Australia adopt federal legislation to address violence against women.

This is why I am calling on the Federal Attorney-General to put on the agenda of the next Council of Attorneys-General (CAG) meeting, this law reform to create a new offence "murder with sexual assault", carrying a mandatory sentence of life without parole.  I am also calling on all the state and territory Attorneys-General to work together on this law reform to ensure uniform sentencing across the nation.

If you agree with me that we need this law reform, please sign this petition and share widely to your family, friends and networks using the hashtag #LifeForRapistMurderers.

Together we can make law reform a reality.

Together we can make our nation safer for women and children.

For more information on the petition campaign please see my website

Yours sincerely,

Eileen Culleton

Sister of murdered rape victim Anne-Marie Culleton