The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal has released their decision in the case of Kieren Loveridge, the man convicted of the ‘one punch’ manslaughter of Thomas Kelly in 2012. The Crown appealed the case after a public outcry regarding the length of the sentence imposed by the orginiating Judge. The Court of Criminal Appeal quashed the original sentences and increased the penalties.

Mr Nicholas Cowdrey AM QC responded to the judgement with an article in the Sydney Morning Herald that discussed the Court of Criminal Appeal decision and the operation of the criminal justice system.

 Loveridge pleaded guilty and the sentencing judge on November 4,  2013, imposed a term of six years with a non-parole period of four years for the manslaughter and additional terms for the assaults. The Kelly family was deeply dissatisfied and the media took up their cause. The government urged the DPP to appeal against the manifest inadequacy of the sentence and he did so, the sentence being increased on Friday to 10½ and seven years respectively.

 So what has the case taught us? Loveridge and those of similar mind and conduct have learned that if you do this and commit manslaughter by an unlawful and dangerous act in the most serious circumstances, you will receive a heavy prison sentence. It is hoped that the additional deterrent effect sought by the appeal judges will be effective (but offences of this kind are unlikely to be committed by people who stop to weigh the consequences before acting).

When an anomalous case comes along in the flow of the vast number of cases dealt with, the system will deal with it too – but it may need more than one go. They should let it operate. There is absolutely no need to rush to legislate some supposed Band-Aid solution – much less to contemplate a manifest evil of the nature of mandatory minimum sentences.

Want to know more?

Nicholas Cowdery AM QC’s paper: Mandatory Sentencing: Getting Justice Wrong.

The Sydney Morning Herald has highlighted Mr Cowdery’s point that “more prisons will have to be built and public expense will increase ”enormously” if mandatory sentences for alcohol-related assaults are introduced.”

Radio National Big Ideas forum on Separation of Powers in Brisbane highlights concerns around independence of the judiciary, mandatory sentencing and the separation of powers in Queensland and nationally.

RoLIA  has a number of blog posts on mandatory sentencing.

For an  examination of the new ‘assault with intoxication’ offence in NSW read our education resource on  Mandatory Sentencing in NSW.