Adjournment: Review of Cumulative Sentencing

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (18:26:52): My adjournment matter is for the attention of the Attorney-General, the Honourable Jill Hennessy, and it relates to the inadequate and insulting sentence of James Gargasoulas to not only the people he killed and injured but also their family, friends, loved ones and the community as a whole. As we all know, Gargasoulas was recently sentenced for the murder of six people, including three-month-old Zachary Bryant and 10-year-old Thalia Hakin. Not only did he kill six innocent people, but he cowardly fled the scene, leaving countless other victims with physical, mental and emotional injuries for life—that is right, for life. Gargasoulas was sentenced to a non-parole period of 46 years—46 years for six life sentences. This equates to roughly seven and a half years for each person murdered. Is taking a person’s life in this state worth just seven and a half years? He could be out when he is 75 years of age, still leaving time for him to live a free life and enjoy the spoils of our great land, something which none of the victims of his heinous crimes will ever be able to do.

Even Justice Weinberg said in his deliberation that Gargasoulas, and I quote, ‘should never be allowed to roam freely’. Families of five victims stated that the sentence is not harsh enough. I put it to every judge, every member of Parliament and all those within the legal system that if your family member was a victim of Gargasoulas’s rampage, would you be content with only seven and a half years prison in exchange for your loved one’s life? I have read the judge’s sentencing remarks, and I urge anyone to read the remarks to get a sense of the sentencing issues within our legal system. I am not laying blame upon the judge or any of the legal personnel involved in this case. I lay the blame squarely and firmly on a legal process that results in judges having to consider sentencing practices including the Verdins principles of 2007, which detail how mental functioning and moral culpability can affect a sentence handed down. Also the common-law principle of totality formulated in 1970 has meant that our legal system practises concurrent sentencing over cumulative sentencing. This antiquated principle of law may work for low to medium-level offences. However, for the offences of murder involving more than one victim, the principle of totality serves no just purpose. I call for reforms to our legal system whereby judges sentence someone for the crime of murder involving more than one victim on a cumulative basis.

If this were the case, Gargasoulas would have received at least 150 years imprisonment and the families of each victim would have received a just sentence for their loved ones. The action that I seek is for the Attorney-General to review concurrent sentencing practices and expedite legislation that amends the Sentencing Act 1991 to include the practice of cumulative sentencing for crimes of murder involving more than one victim. This would mean that each life that is taken is given the same value as any other, and it would also ensure that monsters like Gargasoulas would never walk freely amongst us ever again. The PRESIDENT: I will call Mr Melhem, but I might have to come back to Mr Grimley’s adjournment matter.