The Case for Redemption

The Case for Redemption

In the King v RR, Hunt DCJ of the District Court at Sydney, NSW, on 29 September 2023, sentenced an offender in respect of two groups of offences.

The first being, the counts of supply drug contrary to s.25A(l) of Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985(NSW). The second being, property contrary to s. 193C(1) of  Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), and to aggravate, take and detain contrary to s.86(2) of Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

RR was 39 years old at the time of sentencing and sadly, had a problematical upbringing. This involved her natural father, who was a chronic alcoholic, and her parents separating when she was very young. RR’s mother re-married. RR’s stepfather and mother had been very positive in attempting to deal with the very difficult issues involving the long-term addiction to illicit substances by RR.

RR was introduced to such substances in or about 2012, when she obtained work where such drugs were freely available. She thereafter became chronically addicted to such drugs, and continued offending over a number of years up until 2022.

The offender had been sentenced to imprisonment on a number of occasions and found such, a very difficult experience. She tragically experienced significant subjective problems whilst in custody. It was very difficult for her to receive appropriate treatments whilst in custody.

RR had been referred to a General Practitioner (GP), who had been treating her mother for a number of years. This GP was familiar with RR’s subjective history involving her natural father, who had passed away. The GP assessed and treated RR in very difficult circumstances, and ultimately, provided comprehensive reports and treatment records to the sentencing Judge and to the Probation and Parole Service. The GP did not give up in his efforts to assist RR in rehabilitating herself.

Two things occurred in RR’s life at around 2022. She was referred to a Counsellor and Social Worker, Gaye Cameron, and to The Farm at Galong, a Rehabilitation centre for women. The CEO of The Farm is Kate Cleary.

The Farm operates an incredibly successful program for women who wish to remain absent from alcohol and drugs. In particular, it addresses underlying problems experienced by its clients who are suffering from depression and PTSD. RR, on 25 July 2022, entered Stage  and progressed at a very early time to Stage 2 of the Rehabilitation Program. RR impressed staff with her motivation and responsible behaviour, and was promoted to having a leadership role within the program. It was of much significance that RR completed Stage 2 of the Program in only 5 months and was promoted to Stage 3. RR also undertook a Certificate IV in legal services, which normally takes a period of 24 months. RR has now one further subject to complete her Diploma in Paralegal Services. Her progress was described by Kate Cleary as “outstanding

In a truly remarkable development, RR obtained employment with a law firm in the ACT, Australia. RR has been employed as a legal clerk and has undertaken her employment duties in a very dedicated manner. RR has obtained her own rental unit and a motor vehicle.

The sentencing of RR was a difficult exercise. The sentencing Judge, Hunt DCJ, had granted conditional bail to enable RR to attend The Farm Rehabilitation Centre. RR did not let the Court down. There was no doubt that the offences in respect of which RR had pleaded guilty, were serious and involved what can only be described as a difficult sentencing exercise.

Greg Walsh emphasised to His Honour that RR was at the crossroads of her life and had demonstrated an enormous effort to rehabilitate her life before being sentenced.

The factors of childhood disadvantage are referred to in the High Court decision of Bugmy v The Queen [2013] HCA 37 in the context of individual offenders. It was submitted that childhood deprivation is not limited to Aboriginal Members of the Community; Kennedy v The Oueen [2010] NSWCCA 260 at [21 – 57]. As Rothman J observed in BP v R, sentencing principles apply to any persons who come from “particularly disadvantaged backgrounds”; see BP v R [2010] NSWCCA 159. As His Honour said, “it is by a better understanding that the cause of criminal behaviour (wherever it occurs and in whatever community or circumstances) that one can better fashion sentences that achieve the required outcomes of deterrence (general and specific) and rehabilitation”.

It was submitted and ultimately accepted by the sentencing Judge, that RR’s addiction reduced the seriousness of offending, and also the need for general deterrence. It promoted less need for specific deterrence and enhanced the prospects of rehabilitation. See R v Henry [1999] NSWCCA 111; Simpson J. As Her Honour observed in R v Henry:

“Drug addicts do not come to their addiction from a social or environmental vacuum. This Court should not close its eyes to the multifarious circumstances of disadvantage and deprivation that frequently precede and precipitate a descent into illegal drug use. I do not suggest for a moment that all drug users fall into this category. It is because some do and some do not that I believe rigid rules about the impact on sentencing of drug dependency cannot be laid down.” [337].

“I cannot accept that the blameworthiness of one drug taker is (even excepting that small number of individuals who begin drug taking with medically prescribed drugs) always to be treated as being at the same level as the blameworthiness of the next. Nor can I accept that the exercise of free choice in the use of drugs is always of equal dimensions. It is not every decision to use drugs that can properly or fairly be characterised as a decision made in the exercise of free choice. The will of an individual can be overborne or undermined, not only by acts of another person, but also by the pressure of circumstances. I do not accept that most drug offenders are truly exercising free will when they choose the degradation, despair, criminality and cycle of imprisonment that can follow the initial use of illegal drugs. The circumstances that propel the offender to the use of drugs are often, if not usually, beyond his or her control. They may or may not be combined with a vulnerable personality or even a weakness of character” [338]

In the context of rehabilitation, the reports from The Farm carried considerable weight in this factor in regards to the sentence.

The sentencing Judge, Hunt DCJ, imposed a sentence, which ultimately was to be served by way of an Intensive Correctional Order to enable the Offender to continue her rehabilitation in the community, subject to conditions. RR continues to attend upon her GP and psychologist, and is in frequent contact with The Farm and Ms Cleary. RR also attends at The Farm to speak to other persons in the program.

 

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