National petition calls for life sentencing without parole for rapist murderers

National petition calls for mandatory life sentencing without parole for rapist murderers

Eileen Culleton

In 1988, Anne-Marie Culleton had her whole life ahead of her when she was brutally raped and murdered in her own bed, by a man who had broken into her house in the middle of the night. She was just twenty years old.

Jonathon Bakewell, the man who raped and murdered Anne-Marie, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1989.

In 2004, the Northern Territory, where Bakewell was imprisoned, changed murder sentencing laws to give life sentence prisoners the opportunity for parole.

After just 28 years behind bars, he was released from prison in 2016, aged 55, and has since breached parole four times for taking drugs – the same drugs he took the night he raped and murdered Anne-Marie.

Eileen Culleton, the sister of Anne-Marie, says she lives in perpetual fear that he will strike again and believes that rapist murderers should never be given another chance to repeat their crimes.

That’s why she’s just launched a national petition calling for law reform and the creation of a new offence, “murder with sexual assault”, that would have a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

Currently, the crime of rape and murder is tried and charged as only as murder, with raped treated a secondary factor in the murder. Culleton would like to see the crime of rape and murder treated as one offence.

“This crime needs to be tried as its own offence to reflect the true character of the crime,” she said.

In the petition, Culleton has called on the Federal Attorney General Christian Porter to put this law reform on the agenda of the next Council of Attorneys-General (CAG) meeting, and for state and territory Attorney-Generals to work together to ensure uniform sentencing across Australia.

“I am appalled at how broken the justice system of Australia has become with its weak sentencing and its failure to protect the community,” Culleton said.

“Today there is rarely true justice for murdered rape victims and their loved ones and the community is not being protected with rapist murderers being released on parole and attacking again.”

Culleton says true life sentences are rarely given today. While murder carries a mandatory life sentence in most states, judges have discretion to set a non-parole period of 15 years in Western Australia, and 20 years in other states.

“20 years is not a life sentence,” she said. “A woman’s life must be valued equally to the life of the man who took her life so brutally and that must be reflected in a sentence for the term of the rapist murderer’s natural life.”

In recent years, the rape and murders of Aiia Maasarwe and Eurydice Dixon have sent shockwaves around Australia for their horror and absolute brutality. But as Culleton points out, Codey Herrmann and Jaymes Todd, the men who raped and murdered the young women, will be eligible for parole release when they are in their fifties.

“Young enough to strike again. This must stop,” Culleton said.

Culleton also says that sentencing for crimes of rape and murder should not be reduced based on ‘mitigating factors’.

“It [rape and murder] is a hate crime enacted to terrorise, torture and degrade the victim and is about the offender exerting power, control and dominance over their victim.

“How can anyone argue there are mitigating factors or excuses for raping and murdering someone? This is a crime which by its very nature is deliberate.”

Culleton’s petition was launched on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

Culleton is asking Australians to join her fight for a new offence of “murder with sexual assault” and for the mandatory life sentencing without parole for rapist murderers.

You can sign the petition here and share widely with your network using the hashtag #LifeForRapistMurderers. For more information head to Eileen’s website, here.

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