Kevin Crump was sentenced to life imprisonment for the horrific rape and murder of Virginia Morse and Ian Lamb in 1973, with a recommendation that he ‘never be released’. He has been behind bars for the past 42 years – making him one of the longest serving inmates in NSW.
But the man responsible for one of the most heinous crimes in Australia’s history has appealed to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal for the opportunity to be given a date for release on parole.
Crump’s situation is complicated by changes to sentencing laws in 1999, which say that ‘life means life’ – meaning that those given life sentences should serve the terms of their natural life in prison.
During his brief court appearance, Crump informed the court that he had been unable to obtain legal representation from the legal aid commission or a private criminal law firm, and asked for the matter to be adjourned on that basis. He did, however, express the view that:
“I believe that I should never have received a life sentence because it was not in the worst category of murder cases.”
Life Sentences Pre-1999
When Crump and his co-accused were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1974, Justice Robert Taylor recommended that neither of them ever be released.
At that time, it was not uncommon for those sentenced to life imprisonment to be eligible for parole after 10 to 15 years.
Indeed, in 1997, Crump’s ‘non-parole period’ (ie the minimum time he would spent behind bars) was set at 30 years, which meant that he would have been eligible to apply for release from prison ‘on parole’ in 2003.
But in response to a public outcry, NSW Premier Bob Carr introduced a range of laws including the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW) (‘the CSPA’); colloquially known as “truth in sentencing”.
Carr promised that the new laws would ensure that those responsible for heinous crimes would be “cemented to their cells”.
‘Truth in Sentencing’: Life Sentences Post 1999
Under the CSPA, those sentenced to life imprisonment are meant to serve the rest of their natural lives in prison.
Carr also introduced the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW), which deals with “non-release” recommendations, such as that given by the judge in Crump’s case.
Section 154A of that Act says that serious offenders who are the subject of non-release recommendations can only be granted parole if the Parole Authority is satisfied that they:
- Are in imminent danger of dying, or are incapacitated to the extent that they no longer have the physical ability to harm to any person, and
- Have demonstrated that they do not pose a risk to the community.
High Court Challenge
Section 73 gives the High Court broad power to ‘hear and determine appeals from all judgments, decrees, orders, and sentences’ subject to ‘such regulations as the Parliament prescribes’.
But the High Court disagreed with Crump, confirming his sentence of life imprisonment.
Given the High Court’s finding, it appears unlikely that Crump’s latest appeal will prove to be successful – which means that he is set to spend the rest of his life behind bars, unless he becomes too frail or ill to pose a danger to the community.