THE judge who sparked controversy by refusing to jail nine males who raped a 10-year-old girl—claiming she “agreed to sex”—has a history of being lenient with sex offenders.
It can also be revealed that the victim in the case which has shocked Australia was also repeatedly assaulted when she was even younger.
District Court judge Sarah Bradley was under fire yesterday for not ordering convictions against six teenagers and for issuing suspended sentences to three other offenders.
All nine pleaded guilty to the 2005 rape in the Cape York Aboriginal community of Aurukun.
Judge Bradley said during sentencing remarks that the girl “probably agreed to have sex with all” of the offenders.
Attorney-General Kerry Shine announced last night that he would appeal the sentence, which was handed down in a closed court on October 24.
The decision came as The Daily Telegraph learned that the girl was also the victim of serious sexual assaults when she was aged five and eight.
The girl, now 12, had exhibited highly dysfunctional, sexualised behaviours as a result of the assaults she suffered as a very small child.
Leading Aboriginal figures yesterday called for Judge Bradley, 51, to be stood down while the case was reviewed.
The Cairns-based District Court judge, who earns upwards of $300,000 a year, has complained to colleagues that “sentencing indigenous offenders is never easy”.
Judge Bradley, who has refused to comment on her latest controversy, has been no stranger to public scorn and anger since her appointment to the District Court in March 1999.
In 2002, her findings were the most frequently overturned by the Court of Appeal of any Queensland judge.
In 2001, Judge Bradley imposed a wholly suspended jail term, without conviction, on a 17-year-old youth who raped his grandmother. The court was told the youth raped his grandmother while she was in a drunken sleep.
In sentencing the youth to 12 months’ detention, but making an immediate release order, Judge Bradley said she had taken into account the fact that the youth had been 16 at the time of the offence and was remorseful.
The decision was overturned on appeal, with the teen sentenced to four years’ detention with a conviction recorded.
In July 2001, Judge Bradley imposed a wholly suspended one-year jail term on a Catholic school principal convicted of molesting a 15-year-old student.
Judge Bradley was told the Marist Brother and principal of St Augustine’s College in Cairns sexually assaulted a 15-year-old student during a school camping trip.
Judge Bradley has outlined her thought processes in papers presented at conferences around the country in recent years.
“Sentencing indigenous offenders is never easy,” she told a conference in Perth earlier this year.
“There are times when the offending behaviour clearly warrants the imposition of severe and significant penalties.
“There are also times when a judge who has knowledge of a community . . . and the full particulars of those involved may decide that an alternative penalty is appropriate.”
In sentencing the offenders over the Aurukun case, Judge Bradley ordered that the six teenage juveniles be placed on a 12-month probation order.
She sentenced three men aged 17, 18 and 26 to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.
And in April 2002, Judge Bradley was found to have used a “fictional passage” from a High Court case when she dismissed a $250,000 compensation claim from a family who lost their home after a cyclone.
The Court of Appeal found she had also stopped key witnesses giving evidence and had missed “the point of the plaintiff’s case at trial”.
Griffith University Professor Boni Robertson yesterday said Judge Bradley should be made to stand down pending a full investigation.
“She (Judge Bradley) is being as negligent as you could imagine within a system,” she said.
“Somebody who has the judicial power to bring someone to justice, somebody who has the ability to say to perpetrators ‘This is not going to be tolerated’, somebody who has the ability to say to the country ‘This system will never allow this sort of act to be condoned’ has been negligent.”
Abused Child Trust chairman, pediatrician Dr David Wood, said the judge’s remarks showed a shocking lack of empathy for child victims of abuse.
“A 10-year-old child can’t agree to have sex with anyone,” Dr Wood said.
“Failing to impose a jail term on these men, one a repeat sex offender, is just appalling.”
Judge Bradley was one of a series of women judicial appointments by then Queensland attorney-general Matt Foley.
The group include a who’s who of the current bench—dubbed in legal circles as “Foley’s Angels”—and include former chief magistrate Di Fingleton, Chief Judge Patsy Wolf and Appeal Court president Margaret McMurdo.
Judge Bradley was sworn in as a solicitor in 1980, appointed a Rockhampton magistrate in 1993 and presided in Townsville and Palm Island from 1995 to 1999.
Judge Bradley was last year appointed president of the Australian Association of Women Judges and in 2000 became a member of the District Court Judges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee.