There’s a petition circulating around Australia right now, protesting the seemingly lenient sentences given to two mothers who committed horrific crimes against their children.
Both have had extensive media coverage – mainstream and social.
The two cases causing concern
A 39 year old Queensland woman (who cannot be named) was spared from prison time for horrific sexual assault of her daughter on her 12th birthday, despite pleading guilty in the Townsville District Court to charges of rape and indecent treatment of a lineal descendant.
The mother admitted holding her daughter’s legs open while her partner raped her.
Also recently, Adelaide woman Lorien Norman was released with no prison time after the violent beating of her 18 month old daughter Evie. Initially, Ms Norman lied to police about the cause of her daughter’s injuries, but a paediatrician’s examination concluded that Evie had sustained “at least eight separate blows to her face and body” as a result of physical assault.
The court sentenced Ms Norman to a good behaviour bond and ordered her to pay a $500 fine. Ms Norman was order to come under the supervision of a community corrections officer, and to complete any counselling, assessment or therapy programs deemed appropriate.
The community outrage surrounding the cases is palpable, and Change.org’s petition has now reached around 200,000 signatures, with people stating their reasons for signing as:
“This is a complete disregard for justice and a sickening precedent set by the courts and justices of this country. Makes me sick to the stomach.”
“I am disgusted. Our children deserve to be safe. Punishments need to fit the crime, despite the gender of the offender.”
The comments paint a clear picture: the community is baffled that the courts could spare the perpetrators from a prison sentence.
For many, their main perceptions about crime and justice come from what’s reported in the media, but it is crucial to bear in mind that media reports never tell the full story of what actually goes on behind the closed doors of a court room. Nor do they tell the full circumstances and factors that the magistrate or judge has had to weigh up in making a decision about sentencing.
It is also important to be aware that prison is always the last resort – that all other sentencing options must be considered before a person is sent to gaol.
Whatever the real facts may be, reports of sentences like these tend to undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system.
Outpouring of hate
South Australia’s Lorien Norman has received a viral outpouring of hate and disgust which will certainly impact her future. The internet has a long memory. But does this mean justice has been served? Definitely not in the court of public opinion.
Change.org says it intends to deliver the petition to the Department of Public Prosecutions.