In April this year, twenty-seven year old Liam Danial Sweeney smashed a glass into a stranger’s face and punched him twice in the head. Last week, he walked away from court. His victim still carries the scar. At Mr Sweeney’s trial, the magistrate described his actions as an “unprovoked and gratuitous assault.”
He also said: "not many people are in jail who went to Haileybury or who had your client's privileged background.” Sweeney’s lawyer argued that not many people in prison “look like him.” The magistrate responded, “I don't think he'd last very long (in jail).”
These comments are really worrying - in fact they're downright scary. I believe a person’s privileged background should not mean they are privileged in Australia’s courts. We should all be equal before the law.
Unless the Director of Public Prosecutions appeals this sentence, we’ll never know if Sweeney avoided prison because of the facts that actually matter or just because he comes from a privileged background.
The DPP has commented to media that they have 28 days to consider whether or not to lodge an appeal. Those 28 days run out on the 20th of August - so we have to act quickly - and show them that we want to be assured we live in a country with a just court system.
It may well be that another judge will find Sweeney’s sentence was reasonable - that’s not the point. Like Sweeney, I had a privileged education at a Melbourne private school, but I believe in a legal system where a privileged background is no privilege in the courts.
Attending Haileybury, a prestigious Melbourne school, shouldn’t matter in our courts. The fact that your parents, one of whom is a prominent barrister, are “beside themselves” shouldn’t matter in our courts. Being a corporate lawyer, as Mr Sweeney is, rather than having any other occupation, shouldn’t matter in our courts.
I believe Sweeney’s actions are all the more horrendous because he is privileged, not despite it. Please help me show the DPP we desperately need confidence restored to our legal system, by signing my petition asking them to appeal this case.