Garforth High Court Appeal

About this Item
SpeakersKernohan Dr Elizabeth; Chikarovski Mrs Kerry
BusinessPrivate Members Statements

Dr KERNOHAN (Camden) [6.23]: Wednesday, 19 August 1992, was the day when the peaceful hamlet of Pheasants Nest lost its innocence. It was a day of tragedy. That was the day when nine-year-old Ebony Jane Simpson, the only daughter of Peter and Christine Simpson, was abducted after alighting from her school bus. Two hundred volunteers and 100 police searched the area for her
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for 30 hours. On the Thursday afternoon detectives stopped a car that fitted the description of a car seen in the area on Wednesday afternoon. They apprehended Andrew Peter Garforth. After questioning at Picton police station Garforth confessed to police that he had abducted Ebony, and later he took them to a dam where they found Ebony's body. She had drowned.

That is tragic history, but what of the Simpson family? They are alive; they are not history. What of Christine and Peter? What of Zackery and Tasman, their two teenage sons? It was almost 12 months before Garforth's fate was decided. The Simpson family had to live with the uncertainty and a lack of knowledge of what was going to happen to a man who had brutally murdered their daughter. The date 9 July was always a day of great celebration for the family because it was the birthday of their youngest son, Tasman. However, 9 July 1993 - Tas' fifteenth birthday - was also the day on which Andrew Garforth was sentenced. Mr Justice Newman of the Central Criminal Court handed down a life sentence. Under the 1990 truth in sentencing legislation Garforth was sentenced to serve penal servitude for life.

But what happened? Garforth appealed and about 10 months later the appeal was heard. What happened then? On the birthday of Peter Simpson, Ebony's father, 23 May, the appeal was lost in the Banco Court in Sydney. The appeal was heard by Mr Justice Gleeson, Mr Justice McInerney and Justice Jane Mathews. After all that, one would have thought that the Simpsons could get on with their lives. But they have not been given that chance, because on 7 December, next month, Garforth is seeking leave to appeal to the High Court against the severity of his sentence on the basis that he told the police what he had done. But Ebony's lunch box was floating in the dam, and the police would have found the body sooner or later. All the evidence confirmed Garforth's confession - he was guilty. He was guilty of abducting Ebony, putting her in the car boot, tying her up with wire, sexually assaulting her, throwing her in the dam and walking away as she cried for help. Mr Justice Newman said:
    [Garforth] indicated a remarkable callousness and lack of remorse.

Now three judges will judge three other judges who judged the first judge on the future of Andrew Garforth. The taxpayers are paying for a self-confessed callous killer's plea for leniency with regard to the severity of his sentence. What about the life sentence of the Simpson family? When can they start afresh and look forward to a new life? When are they going to be able to start living? Zac, the eldest son, has just completed his higher school certificate at Picton High School. I congratulate him on having the guts to complete his studies under the circumstances, but what effect will this event have on his future? How can the Simpsons teach their sons to become law-abiding citizens when they believe that the law is an ass in regard to the treatment of this murderer? Our laws are designed to protect the rights of criminals, not innocent victims. We Australians believe in a fair go. I call for a fair go for the Simpson family because Andrew Garforth has had more than a fair go.

Mrs CHIKAROVSKI (Lane Cove - Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment, and Minister for the Status of Women) [6.28]: I am sure all members in this House share the concern and sympathy expressed by the honourable member for Camden. All honourable members would concur with her that this matter should be resolved as quickly as possible so that the Simpson family can get on with the rest of their lives. They have shown great courage - and I do not think that too many of us could have coped the way they have. I say to the honourable member for Camden that they have in you a very firm supporter and determined advocate for their cause.