Chang decision based on outrage, not logic
According to the office of NSW Corrective Services Minister John Robertson between 1200 and 1400 people are granted parole in NSW each month.
For the first time yesterday Mr Robertson, egged on by a frenzied shadow attorney general and a public baying for blood, demanded a parole ruling be “vacated”.
Eighteen years ago on November 11 Phillip Choon Tee Lim was sentenced to 24 years in jail, with a non-parole period of 18 years for his part in the murder of heart surgeon Victor Chang.
At a recent hearing the State Parole Authority, considering reports of his good behaviour, granted his parole application and ordered he be released from Parramatta Jail on that date. John Robertson says “I don’t think it’s enough,” and in doing so has tried to change the rules forever.
It’s not surprising that the case in question has raised the emotional temperature of the state. The murder of Dr Chang on a quite street in Mosman in 1991 was then, and remains today, utterly devastating for his family, for the medical community, and for NSW.
But this should not be about what an amazing man Dr Chang was. If we make it about that any objectivity in our justice system is undermined and we may as well throw out the courts and let ministers decide the fate of felons based on the viewer vote on Sunrise.
Here’s what’s happened.
What ever you may think of the punishment, Lim was sentenced by the Supreme Court of NSW.
The Judge ordered him to serve a maximum of 24 years, a minimum of 18.
Based on the precedence of many thousands of inmates before him, Lim applied for parole citing a report on his behaviour during that 18 years.
Mr Robertson yesterday said he had been advised Lim had been a “compliant inmate.”
On November 11 Lim was due to walk free from Parramatta Jail, under the same arrangements as countless others before him.
He would then likely be immediately deported to Malaysia, and we would never have to lay eyes on him again.
But after a conversation between Mr Robertson and Corrective Services Commissioner Ron Woodham, that decision has been “vacated.”
That announcement was made yesterday afternoon, after a massive backlash from the media and the public. It was a wildly popular decision.
In a hearing that is likely to be late next week submissions will be heard from the Chang family and from Mr Woodham on behalf of the Government. It’s been reported Mr Woodham’s submission will urge the authority to overturn its ruling, based on what, I’m not sure.
Mr Robertson says he’s concerned about the deportation as Lim won’t be under strict parole conditions in Malaysia. Talk about muddying the waters.
Unfortunately for the Chang family the conviction took place before a rule change ensuring family members are informed of a killer’s imminent release. They reportedly found out about it the same way the rest of us did, when the news broke publicly, which must have been terrible for them.
That is a set of circumstances the Government should act on quickly, to avoid other families like the Changs being put in that position.
But ordering the State Parole Authority “vacate” a decision it made based on the same factors as tens of thousands of other cases before screams of dangerous populism.
Which of the 1200-1400 paroles each month will be considered worthy and which won’t under Mr Robertson’s new regime?
These decisions are not to be made based on some kind of outrage meter. If Mr Robertson doesn’t like the parole system he should put changes to the parliament.
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