Prison too tough for bikies, says Supreme Court Judge Justice Peter Applegarth
- 9 hours ago December 17, 2013
Justice Peter Applegarth handed three reduced sentences to accused bikies because he feared jail could be too rough for them under the Newman Government's crackdown.
Justice Applegarth said new jail measures for bikies - including solitary confinement, pink jumpsuits and no TVs - should be taken into account in deciding how long the criminals should spend behind bars.
In three separate contempt judgments, he ruled the men would normally be jailed for five to six months - but gave them four to six weeks instead.
Even the bikies' own lawyers initially did not dispute prosecution submissions that sentences of five to six months in jail were appropriate for the three men.
However Justice Applegarth ordered the parties to return with new submissions which took into account the Government's bikie policies.
"The harms of solitary confinement are evidenced in a large body of literature, including research dating back to the nineteenth century,'' Justice Applegarth found.
Justice Applegarth's judgment revealed the three men were called to give evidence last month at highly secretive Crime and Misconduct Commission hearings into the criminal activity of bikie gangs.
Each refused to even take the oath and were charged with contempt, which would usually be expected to lead to a sentence of about six months in jail.
However in the latest judicial clash with the Government, Justice Applegarth sentenced two men to 28 days and a third man to 42 days in jail because of the conditions they will face.
The Government has created a bikies-only "super jail'' at Woodford prison where the inmates are allowed only two hours of sunlight a day and spend the rest of the time in solitary.
Bikies must also wear pink jumpsuits and have no TVs in their cells and no access to gym facilities or ovals.
"It is appropriate to take into account the fact that any period of imprisonment that I impose is likely to be served in solitary confinement and in the other circumstances dictated by the policy,'' Justice Applegarth said in all three judgments.
"A requirement to serve a substantial part of the sentence in solitary confinement and in those conditions would be extremely harsh.''
The judgments were delivered behind closed doors last Thursday and since been published online.
The decisions have since been published online.
Defence lawyers initially agreed with the prosecution that sentences of five to six months in jail were appropriate for the three men.
Justice Applegarth ordered the parties to return with new submissions which took into account the government's bikie policies.
"The belief was that left alone with their conscience and the Bible, convicts would see the error of their ways and reform,'' Justice Applegarth said. "However, it transpired that many prisoners became mentally ill and there was little evidence that solitary confinement succeeded in reducing offending.''
The judgments note that the United Nations called for the abolition of solitary in 1990 and international conventions prohibited the cruel or inhuman treatment of prisoners.
Research linked solitary to the development of psychotic illnesses and it was recognised as ``an extreme prison practice which should only be used as a last resort and then only for a short period of time.''
``Any substantial period of solitary confinement carries a high risk of causing serious psychological damage to the respondent which will endure after his release. Such enduring consequences carry dangers for members of the community.''
There was "no arithmetical calculation'' to convert months in normal prison conditions to a period in solitary but his role was to deliver a just punishment, Justice Applegarth said.