67-year-old former ‘Hey Dad’ star, Robert Hughes, was convicted in Downing Centre District Court of child sex offences in May 2014. He was sentenced to a full term of 10 years and 6 months in prison, with a ‘non parole period’ of 6 years – which means he must spend at least 6 years behind bars.
The first few days behind prison walls were a rude awakening for Hughes – dozens of inmates at greeted the star by pelting him with milk cartons filled with faeces and urine, to the point where he was covered in human waste.
In his book titled ‘Australia’s Most Murderous Prison’, author James Phelps reports a version of events given by a former prison guard:
“I would estimate 50 to 70 inmates all ran to the yard”, the guard said.
“We thought, oh shit it’s on here. Before we knew it he had shit and piss thrown on him from the time he walked into the yard to the time he walked out of the back of the yard”.
“What they do is shit and piss in the little milk containers they’re issued, and they put their arms through the bars and fling it – you would really be surprised how far”
Covered from head to toe in human waste, the guard said Hughes “sat on top of a small grassy hill in the activities yard, and he cried”.
He then cleaned himself up, before being pelted once again on the way back to his cell.
The former star is reported to have then called a friend and said:
“I can’t do it. This place is horrible. I thought it would be ok but I can’t stay here in Goulburn. This place is hell. You have to get me out”.
Despite pleas to prison authorities by his criminal defence lawyer, Hughes continued to be targeted to the point where he constantly wore a thick ski jacket, even through the summer months.
During his ‘severity appeal’ (to have his sentence reduced), Hughes’ lawyer submitted that the Court should take into account the inhumane treatment of his client behind prison walls; including being doused with boiling water.
‘Hey Dad Wall’
Unable to protect Hughes from other inmates, Goulburn prison recently erected a “special screening of thick, tight wire” to prevent other inmates from throwing waste at him.
Extra guards are also now used to walk Hughes from place to place, and there is little doubt he is having an extremely tough time behind prison walls.
Prison as punishment, not for punishment
Despite how society perceives child sexual abuse, it is important to remember that Hughes will now spend many years behind bars – indeed, he will be an old man before being eligible for release. Even then, he will probably remain a target outside prison walls.
The courts have often said that “people are sent to prison as punishment, not to be punished” – with the removal of a person’s liberty being a significant punishment in and of itself.
Despite the nature of Hughes’ convictions, “vigilante justice” both within and outside prison walls is contrary to the rule of law, and degrading treatment such as smothering others with excrement or subjecting them to physical and mental abuse is against civilised notions of punishment, and should never be permitted or condoned.
Hughes is currently seeking leave to appeal his convictions to the High Court of Australia, and one thing is for sure – he is spending “hard time” in Australia’s most secure prison facility.