GEORGE HAMPEL - THE NIGHTMARE
You can surely imagine what it's like seeing former judge George Hampel 'wheeled' out to to comment on the television, as he was on the ABC's 7.30 Report on Monday 23 March 2009. On this occasion Hampel was asked to give an opinion about the the appropriateness of holding bushfire hearings at which those who might be criticised are unable to present a counter view.
Such hearings clearly undermine the process of natural justice and surely serve to protect the state government's interests. To that extent I support Hampel's reservations. If only he'd made them with some passion or energy! All that aside, I can't warm to the sight of Hampel being asked to offer an opinion on such a matter.
Twenty years have passed since he sentenced the vicious killer Peter Keogh to gaol for the 'murder' of my sister. I still find it incredible that he could have sent Keogh to gaol for less than four years. Whilst the fact that Keogh was found guilty only of manslaughter meant he could not be sentencd as if he had murdered Vicki, how could Hampel possibly think that three years and eleven months was a fitting sentence?
Peter Keogh was not an honourable citizen with a history of goodness when he stood before Hampel. He was a man with a crime sheet that included the sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl in 1974 and numerous violent assaults. He was a man who had waited for an hour for my 25-year-old sister to arrive in Cameron Street Coburg, then attacked with calculated intent. He'd even wiped the blade of his knife with a tissue as he left poor Vicki in the gutter outside the kinder where she worked.
Doesn't a judge entrusted with such a role have a responsibility to do better than what he did that day in February 1989? On what grounds could he possibly have believed that Keogh should not have received a sentence equivalent to the one - eight years - Justice Osborn gave wife killer James Ramage in 2004? Ramage was a cleanskin when he strangled his wife in 2003.
How could twenty years pass without an apology to my parents for the disgraceful sentence given to Keogh. If the granting of provocation was galling the sentence was unforgivable. What did this sentence say about my sister's rights? Isn't it understandable that I wince when I see George Hampel on television talking about matters of justice?
Is there a journalist somewhere who feels as aggrieved as I do? Is there a crusader somewhere who might ask George why he sentenced Keogh to three years and eleven months? Maybe they could ask him whether he still thinks he was bound by law to grant a provocation defence. I didn't accept the ruling then and still don't? Mine was not only a view, widely held in legal circles. It was a view held with great conviction by people, experts and commentators, everywhere.
A View from the DPP
In late March 2009 I wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions Jeremy Rapke seeking an assessment of the granting of a provocation defence in R V Keogh (1989) and the sentence of 47 months.
Mr Rapke responded