OPINION: The Jill Meagher Case – Do We Have A Fair Justice System?

Words by: Paula Connell
Image credit: news.com.au

It’s the corner stone of society upon which civil interaction is based: the Australian legal system. It is expected this is where Australian people will go when horrific crimes are committed and justice needs to prevail. However, the story of Jill Meagher’s rapist Adrian Bayley and his historical string of sex offences has led to some Australian’s asking where has our justice system gone wrong?

Jill Meagher’s husband was one of the first to speak out against how the rape and murder of his wife could have been prevented by the responsible handling of Bayley’s crimes by the justice system back in 2002. ABC news reported Tom Meagher’s anger back in 2013 just after the fatal attack occurred. 41-year old Bayley had a very detailed and long list of sex offences on women. He slipped past regulations and managed to get placed back on Australian streets again.

Then, in March 2015, ABC reported on the failure to properly convict Bayley of his original crimes back in 2002 where he was found guilty of two rapes in 1977 and a series of 16 rapes on street workers in 1966. Bayley was given 8 years imprisonment until 2010 when he was given release on parole.

In that same month, Bayley has returned back to court for three more attacks on women prior to Jill Meagher’s death. At the end of the first two trials, Justice Nettle told Bayley in court:

“As your criminal record reveals you are a recidivist violent sexual offender… in terms of moral culpability your killing of the decreased ranks among the worst kinds conceivable.”

Bayley’s sentence for the death of Jill Meagher is life imprisonment with a eligibility for parole in 35 years.

 In the last month more details of attacks on the woman before the rape and death of Jill Meagher have emerged. According to The Australian Bayley was convicted of three counts of rape and two counts of assaulting a prostitute in 2000. The victim spoke to a psychologist about the rape 6 months prior to the death of Meagher. Bayley was then convicted of the rape of another prostitute from St Kilda in 2012 and the final conviction was the rape of a Dutch backpacker in 2012. Bayley offered the backpacker a drive home to her accommodation, he then drove down a laneway, pulled over, locked the doors and raped her.

In the same article by The Australian George McKeon reported in a statement that the three latest convictions are proof that Victoria’s parole system is broken.

The Conversation reported on the findings of Productivity’s Commission’s draft report looking into problems in the Australian legal system. The three main problems identified from the report were that the system was “too slow, expensive and hard to understand”.

Over half of the Australian population experience legal problems every year however due to the under productivity of our legal system most won’t have any contact with legal assistance or courts.  The research from the report shows that people siting in medical, lower socioeconomic and ethical categories are more likely to have legal problems and have problems with gaining access to assistance. Perhaps the issue that affected the victims of Bayley the most is the problem of not knowing where to turn for help and the expenses associated with it.

Perhaps having a reform of parole measures and having a place where victims could seek assistance could have prevented Meagher’s death. Bayley’s horrific crimes and the failure to keep him safe from the public has brought to life how important it is to reform the Australian justice system and allow Australian’s to feel safer in society in the future.