Child Sex Offenders Will Serve Longer Jail Terms
A GIRL whose life was ruined by a sex fiend has welcomed news that her case will prompt a change in the law.
More of the state's worst sex offenders will face tougher penalties after an overhaul of a law that has not been changed for 400 years.
The sentencing net will be widened by lifting the age limit for victims in child sexual penetration cases from under 10 to under 12.
The victim of the crime that was the catalyst for a Government-ordered review of child sex offences and maximum penalties said yesterday the change was "OK".
"But she can't understand why the age should be 12, or why there's any age limit at all," the girl's mother told the Herald Sun.
"My daughter turns 12 next week, and if it had happened at that age instead of when she was 10 she would have been just as devastated and the impact just as traumatic."
The girl, who can not be identified, turned 10 a fortnight before she was attacked in her bed by a man who broke into her family's home at night.
The offender --
Stephen Maurice -- faced a maximum penalty of only 10 years rather than the 25-year maximum that would have applied had the girl been under 10 at the time of the offence.
The girl's mother said the family's "whole lives have been turned upside down".
She said they had been forced to move house and her daughter now had no confidence, no friends, and was still seeing a psychologist every week.
"She used to be the most outgoing child, but now she's very clingy -- my little leech," the mother said. "She worries about who's watching her, can't cope with crowds and doesn't trust anyone outside the immediate family."
Maurice was sentenced to nine years' jail with a minimum of seven years to serve for aggravated burglary and sexual penetration, but was recently granted leave to appeal against the severity of his sentence.
Sentencing Advisory Council chairman Prof Arie Freiberg said the judicial system was still reliant on an age limit set in English law in 1576, and the council believed it was time it was increased.
Attorney-General Rob Hulls confirmed the law would be changed to cover children aged 10 and 11, as recommended by the council.
"Sexual offences against children are heinous crimes against the most vulnerable members of our society, and the community has an expectation that offenders are sentenced accordingly," he said.
During a two-year period reviewed by the council, 81 charges of sexual penetration of children involved children aged 10 or 11.
Prof Freiberg said the council believed current maximum sentences in child sex cases were adequate and did not need to be increased.
But it believed guideline judgments, which have been strongly resisted by the Court of Appeal, would help ensure appropriate sentences were imposed.
"Judicial guidance would have greater effect on actual sentences for these offences than Parliament increasing maximum penalties," Prof Freiberg said.
The council's review of child sexual penetration cases and penalties heard widespread criticism of sentences imposed by judges.
Herald Sun (24-9-2009)