EDITORIAL: Sentencing not making sense 'on the street'

Notorious paedophile Maurice Van Ryn is experiencing "absolute hell" during his time behind bars and media focus on his years of abusing multiple children is "causing issues" for him his lawyers tell us.

Well, what can one say to that...

More galling for those of us on the other side of the bars is the seemingly haphazard and inadequate sentencing being applied to one of the most heinous crimes many could imagine.

In 2015, Van Ryn pleaded guilty and was convicted of 17 child sex offences committed against nine victims over an 11 year period from 2003 to 2014. At the time, District Court judge Clive Jeffreys imposed a maximum sentence of 13 years' jail with a non-parole period of seven years.

"An affront to the administration of justice" was how the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal referred to that judgement, increasing the sentence to a minimum 13 years and six months without parole.

Still not as long as many hoped, but better.

So we had a confessed and convicted paedophile behind bars the equivalent of just 18 months for each child abused and the possibility of him released before some of them turn 18.

Late last year a further victim came forward and again Van Ryn entered a guilty plea. This time he was hit with an additional nine years' imprisonment.

Thirteen-and-a-half years for nine victims - nine years for one? Not in any way suggesting this recent verdict is too harsh, far from it, but something seems unbalanced.

However, the non-parole period was only extended by 12 months beyond what has already been imposed.

While it might be thought unlikely an abhorrent criminal such as Van Ryn could be considered for parole, do we take that as boiling down to a mere 12 months' prison for this latest verdict regarding aggravated sexual intercourse with a child?

It wasn't until the turn of the century that courts took notice of community concerns over the long-term psychological effects on victims of this kind of offending, and changes such as standard non-parole periods brought in.

Still, it was a battle by the families to have Van Ryn's first sentence made more appropriate, not just in the eyes of the public but also, as the appeals court found, in the eyes of justice itself.

It seems we still have a long way to go until we get it right.

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