OPINION: Errors of judgement called into question

It’s not surprising the judicial process around Maurice Van Ryn has been called into question this week.

The community has been outraged since day one.

However, the direction from where the attack came may have surprised some.

It’s usually the case politicians are not to interfere in the activities of the judicial system, including the appointment, or standing down, of judges.

However, Member for Bega Andrew Constance this week used his parliamentary privilege to unleash a scathing attack on District Court Judge Clive Jeffreys.

In a private members bill on Tuesday, Mr Constance called Judge Jeffreys’ sentencing of confessed paedophile Van Ryn in September “gobsmackingly incompetent” and suggested he “look within himself” and “consider his position “ following the ruling. 

Mr Constance did admit his move was an “unusual step for a politician to take” during his slamming of the minimum jail sentence imposed by Judge Jeffreys of seven years.

That sentence has been significantly increased on appeal to 18 years, 13-and-a-half without parole.

However, Jeffreys’ original sentencing has not been the only questionable decision of this whole saga.

How about Judge Rodney Madgwick referring to the child rapist as a “model citizen...other than the offending”!

Or what about Local Court magistrate Doug Dick allowing the granting of bail, even after Van Ryn admitted his guilt to these most abhorrent of crimes?

The three sitting judges who ruled on a sentence appeal lodged by the Director of Public Prosecutions called Judge Jeffreys’ decision as “an affront to the administration of justice”.

Well, we always knew that didn’t we?

However, what sentence would gel with community expectations?

It appears the average time given to child sex offenders is in the range of only 5-8 years. We believe the sentence of a maximum 18 years’ imprisonment is among the strongest penalties ever handed down in NSW for a crime of this sort – and yet it still doesn’t seem enough.

With the increased sentence, Van Ryn will be eligible for parole on June 9, 2028.

“In my humble opinion and that of my community, Van Ryn should never be released to reoffend again,” Mr Constance told the NSW Parliament on Tuesday.

Hear, hear.

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