Disadvantaged Aboriginal Background Now a Factor in Court Rulings

Jane Lee, The Age, October 3, 2013

Judges will need to consider the Aboriginal background of an offender when sentencing them after a landmark High Court decision ruled that the effects of profound disadvantage do not diminish over time.

The High Court ruled for the first time on Wednesday that a person’s Aboriginal background may reduce their sentence if they come from a deprived or disadvantaged background. It also ruled that this was one of a number of factors that judges had to consider, including the seriousness of an offence and the extent to which the victim has been harmed.

The judges unanimously allowed an Aboriginal Australian man, William Bugmy, to appeal the Court of Criminal Appeal’s decision to re-sentence him to five years’ imprisonment without parole.

Bugmy grew up in Wilcannia, in far-west NSW, in a home where alcohol abuse and violence were common. He was sentenced to four years in jail in the District Court of NSW for intentionally causing grievous bodily harm to a correctional services officer. The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the sentence, arguing it was ”manifestly inadequate”.

While not all Aboriginal offenders had similarly disadvantaged backgrounds, the court said: ”The circumstance that an offender has been raised in a community surrounded by alcohol abuse and violence may mitigate the sentence because his or her moral culpability is likely to be less than the culpability of an offender whose formative years have not been marred in that way.”

University of Technology Sydney senior law lecturer Dr Thalia Anthony said the ruling paved the way for more offenders to appeal their sentences in cases where judges had not given enough weight to their background.

”If [lower courts] continued to maintain that pattern of reasoning, then there will be appeals, but you would hope that the courts will look at this High Court decision seriously and start to apply that and accordingly start to reduce sentences where it’s appropriate for [people of] Aboriginal background.”

From the late 1990s, prison sentences had lengthened disproportionately for indigenous offenders. NSW and Northern Territory courts in particular had justified lengthy sentences for indigenous people convicted of serious offences by giving greater weight to the seriousness of the offence than other considerations, including the person’s background.

According to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, indigenous people are now 15 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-indigenous Australians, with imprisonment rates rising 50 per cent in the past decade compared with 5 per cent for the rest of the population.

”I’m not expecting indigenous people to get really light sentences but I’m expecting that that trajectory of sentences getting harsher will be brought back a bit,” Dr Anthony said.

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  • Luca

    “…reduce their sentence if they come from a deprived or disadvantaged background.”

    Like Aborigines, all sub-Saharans come from a deprived and disadvantaged DNA at birth, namely their DNA code. Many Whites and Asians also come from a deprived and disadvantaged background, but they work through it to better themselves.

    More excuses, lower expectations and more of the same societal dysfunction.

  • Spartacus

    Good. Maybe now, with more of these violent animals being left on the street, more Australians are gonna wake up and start doing their own justice .

  • Bob

    Canada is the same way with the Indians here. They get sentenced to healing circles or some kind of stupid lenient crap.

    • sbuffalonative

      A couple years ago, we had an Indian ‘youth’ rape and murder a white women. He was sentenced using ‘triable justice’.

      Minorities want it both ways. They want all the privileges of our culture but they want to live by their culture. The two are incompatible which is why they never make it in white cultures and can never improve their culture.

    • borogirl54

      American prisons have the sweat lodges and allow Native American prisoners to practice their traditional religion.

  • ARA, Abo-Run Australia.

  • sbuffalonative

    Reduce their sentences so they get out sooner to cause more trouble in their communities. Win-win.

  • Homo_Occidentalis

    I guess you can add justice to the list of racist concepts, which already includes the free market, IQ, athletics, etc.
    I guess the old adage, “do the crime, do the time”, is totally out the window now, huh?

    • sbuffalonative

      REPEAT:
      Minorities want it both ways. They want all the privileges of our culture but they want to live by their culture. The two are incompatible which is why they never make it in white cultures and can never improve their culture.

    • Andy

      From Radish Magazine:

      • Reggie Clemons, St. Louis. Not only did he rape the two white women, he murdered them by throwing them off the bridge over the Mississippi River they were at the time. The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. This was back in the days when the bridge had been closed to vehicular traffic for a long time and not legally open to pedestrian traffic, even though a lot of people did take the risk and do it for kicks, including me just a few days before this happened.

        The rally pictured is at Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis; I recognize a few faces in the crowd as local libloons that are professional protesters.

  • professor

    Maybe the courts will establish something similar here in WV. Let’s see, you got busted for a meth lab and are sentenced to take some college level chemistry courses, have to wear that tracker though.. Oxy, we’ll make you a pharmacist. Growing some pot, that’s easy, sentenced to a couple years in horiculture. “My papaw mined coal up in that holler” and I’m disadvantaged!

  • Puggg

    “Disadvantaged.”

    My paw.

    Australian Aboriginals probably get all sorts of affirmative action and race pity benefits dumped on them.

    • borogirl54

      They do. But does it make a difference? I think not.

  • me

    As long as the scum of the earth criminals aren’t WHITE, they get a free pass. MADNESS!

  • Daniel Schmuhl

    Aboriginal IQ is like 64

  • JohnEngelman

    I cannot easily document this, but I suspect that the son of a banker who commits a crime is less likely to brake the law again than a youth raised in poverty who does not know who his father is. The second youth should receive a longer sentence, rather than a shorter one.

  • PROUD TO BE WHITE

    As a highly educated white person living in Australia all I can say is
    that in relation to Aboriginal matters things will never get better, they may
    get worse, but never better. I came from a poor background but through
    intellect, industry and hard work did a PhD in the Physical Sciences. I never
    used my poor background as an excuse for anything I did or did not do – I just
    did it. Now old and retired, I live a solitary life away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. My only connection with the world is
    through the Internet. I chose to live on the outskirts of a modern city where
    the predominant group of people are white and of European heritage. It is the
    closest thing I have to an Orania. I am very much pro white immigration and
    offer an open invitation to any white person from Europe, UK, USA, Canada or
    other parts to settle in Australia. Given time, but not in my time, we could
    make this country an Orania beneath Capricorn. Who knows!

  • Sick of it

    “According to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal
    Services, indigenous people are now 15 times more likely to be
    incarcerated than non-indigenous Australians”

    Higher comparative rate than black Americans vs white Americans.

  • Brian

    Criminal named Bugmy. Yep, they sure do.