Each year in Australia crimes are committed that are so evil their perpetrators
are sentenced to the maximum punishment that the law allows. And seeing as there
is no death penalty in any state of Australia, these worst-of-the-worst are sent
to prison for life without the possibility of parole. It is termed 'never to be
released'. to date, no criminal who has ever been handed down this sentence has
been set free, and they will die in jail as the law demands. But the fear of
going to prison forever does little to deter some people from committing crimes
of the most heinous nature.
From time to time the courts have expressed the view that
specific offenders should never be released from gaol. For example, this
occurred in the case of Crump
and Baker (unreported
decision of the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal, 7 February 1975), and concerned
the horrific and well publicised murder of Virginia Morse at a property in
north-western New South Wales. In that case the Court of Criminal Appeal
endorsed the following remarks of the trial judge: ‘If ever there was a case
where life imprisonment should mean what it says - imprisonment for the whole of
your lives - this is it.’
Similar exhortatory statements can be found occasionally, as in
the brutal sex murder in February 1986 of Anita Cobbyin NSW and in the
David and Catherine
Birnie case (torture, rape and murder of four Perth women in late 1986).
Until recently even the endorsement on a life sentence prisoner's file ‘never to
be released’ did not have any binding legal effect upon those charged with the
responsibility for determining when the prisoner should be released.
However, under the provisions of the
Criminal Law Amendment
Act No.70 of 1988 in Western Australia the law was amended so that a court
which imposes a sentence of strict security life imprisonment can, where it
considers appropriate, order that the person is not to be eligible for parole.
This is intended to mean that the prisoner must serve the rest
of his or her life in gaol.