Wollongong judge takes a swipe at sentencing for violent drunks

Paul Conlon

Paul Conlon

Wollongong District Court judge Paul Conlon has lashed out at the NSW government’s proposed mandatory minimum sentencing for violent drunks, saying it could prevent courts handing down ‘‘just’’ sentences in some cases.

Judge Conlon used the case of Bellambi ear biter Simon De Wet, sentenced to 10 years’ jail on Wednesday, to highlight that offenders who were sober should not necessarily  be treated more leniently than those who were drunk.

He said there was no evidence in De Wet’s act of ‘‘savagery’’ that he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“How could it ever be acceptable to argue that an offender who is not intoxicated by alcohol or drugs should be considered less criminally culpable than one who was?’’ Judge Conlon said.

‘‘In my view, in some cases, mandatory minimum terms will prevent the courts doing what the community expects — that is, to hand down sentences that are right and just in all the circumstances.’’

He said while judges were often reluctant to enter public debate, sometimes they should speak out, particularly when such a policy might affect the administration of justice.