Community safety must trump freedom of violent thugs

November 17, 2023 7:00 AM
Libby Mettam
WA Liberal Leader

The images of a group of violent offenders walking freely on the streets of Perth this week following the High Court’s decision that indefinite immigration detention was illegal was difficult to stomach. 

It’s an undoubtedly complex issue and we must respect the judiciary’s decision.

However, it is hard to reconcile that once again we have a situation where the freedom of perpetrators of some truly heinous crimes has been put ahead of the safety of their victims and the broader community. 

Perhaps equalling as shocking as the decision itself, has been the government’s response at both a Federal and State level. 

Federal Labor was obviously left scrambling, offering empty promises about keeping communities safe while fully aware they had no measures in place to do that. 

It was clear they had no contingencies or plan B in the event of this decision and are now playing a desperate game of catch up well after the horse has bolted. 

The response from Cook Labor Government has been equally underwhelming, to say the least.

After being dumped at a Thornlie motel, we have learnt that the Yongah Hills detainees, some of which have been convicted of child sexual abuse, distributing child pornography and serious domestic violence assaults, were essentially allowed to roam free. 

There were no obvious checks or balances and reportedly no visible police officers on site. 

While I accept the WA Police force may not have had the legal mechanisms at that point to put formal tracking measures in place, why didn’t the WA Government ensure there was a visible police presence overseeing these offenders who clearly had little regard for Australian laws in the past? 

We know that at least one of the victims of these convicted thugs has applied for an urgent violent restraining order from WA Police. 

The police minister was at pains to keep the issue at arm’s length this week describing it as an operational matter, alluding to a system where he has no oversight of such matters.

Given the political and community outrage over the release of these thugs this week, it’s difficult to believe he would not have received briefings.

But perhaps it’s not surprising given the WA Labor Government’s track record in this space, where community safety often comes second to the so-called rights of convicted criminals. 

While his Federal counterparts were trying to hose down the firestorm surrounding the release of the detainees, the WA Attorney-General quietly tabled a review into how and why WA thug Luke Noormets was released from jail early with no tracking measures, only to murder his ex-partner Georgia Lyall a year later.

The findings of the review would bring little comfort to the thousands of domestic violence victims around this State currently fearing the day their perpetrators are considered for parole. 

They highlight a system where the board didn’t have access to details of past convictions, nor did it apparently seek them. Further, even if it did have the details, the review stated it may not have changed the outcome of his early release. 

It’s truly breathtaking. 

This was a former Rebels bikie nominee serving a seven-year sentence for abducting, beating and torturing another man before setting him on fire and waterboarding him over a 13-hour period. 

It was incomprehensible that the WA Prisoners Review Board would consider letting someone capable of such an horrific act out two years early in the first place, regardless of whether he had any previous offences. 

Which he did. He had previously been convicted of breaching a police order, criminal damage and trespass, relating to a terrifying incident in which he smashed a glass window and broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house and threatened to kill her now-husband, among other things. 

But apparently, the board didn’t have those details and there was “nothing in Noormets’ file to suggest he should not be released on parole”.

Absolutely extraordinary that while the board considered his record, it didn’t seek to find out the circumstances of those convictions, which on paper were considered non-violent offences. 

In his review, Attorney-General John Quigley recommended that information to the board should include a more detailed analysis of prior offending and specifically address the details of any offences related to family and domestic violence.

Further, the government will now make sure there is someone on the board that has some kind of understanding of family violence and that all board members undertake family and domestic violence training on an ongoing basis. 

I am still speechless, to be honest, that these basic measures have not been in place to date. 

Family and domestic violence offences have increased by 45 per cent since this government came to power in 2017. WA is the worst State in the country. 

Of the 38,743 reported assaults last year, 65 per cent of them were family and domestic violence related. 

It is inconceivable that a board charged with making some of the most critical decisions with respect to community safety is doing so without all the details and without any knowledge of how domestic violence offenders work to manipulate their victims. 

The Liberals have already committed to reviewing the State’s parole laws to ensure that community safety is always prioritised over the freedom of violent perpetrators, there won’t be any other option.

It’s common sense and what the community rightly expects and deserves.

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