Life Sentence Confirmation Bill

About this Item
SpeakersCollins The Hon Peter
BusinessBill, First Reading, Second Reading


Bill introduced and read a first time.
Second Reading

Mr COLLINS (Willoughby - Leader of the Opposition) [10.25 a.m.]: I move:
      That this bill be now read a second time.

This matter has been debated in this Parliament from time to time. It has left a scar on this State and indeed on the standing of the criminal law and confidence in the judiciary in this State. There is no more heinous crime recorded in the annals of criminal history in New South Wales than the murder and abduction of Virginia Morse 24 years ago. I refer to the Crump and Baker case. In 1973 the State was shocked by a brutal and terrible crime committed in cold blood against a totally innocent family in the north-west of New South Wales and the southern part of Queensland. It was 24 years ago that Kevin Garry Crump went on a shooting rampage in the north-west of New South Wales. He killed a man by the name of Ian Lamb as he sat in his car. He than abducted Virginia Morse, who was 35 years old, from her family home in Collarenebri, held her captive, and took her to Queensland where she was raped, tortured, shot and then thrown into a river.

The Premier has described Kevin Crump as evil incarnate and pure wickedness. I totally endorse his comments. I will now make clear why this legislation is critical. When he was sentenced in the 1970s the judge marked Kevin Garry Crump’s papers "Never to be released". Yet on 24 April this year the Supreme Court of New South Wales decided to allow convicted murderer Kevin Crump to walk free from gaol in November 2003. That decision was made totally contrary to the spirit of legislation passed previously in this Parliament. I therefore ask the Government to support this legislation. There should be no difference between the parties in solving this situation once and for all. The problem with the decision that Justice McInerney made in the Supreme Court on 24 April is that in interpreting a previous determination by this Legislature he said:
      The Legislature has made it quite clear, I believe, that the only basis on which I can act so as to confirm a sentence for the term of his natural life is that the crime must be one of murder and not a conspiracy to murder.

At the core of this terrible crime is the technicality that Virginia Morse was taken across the Queensland-New South Wales border and there she was raped, tortured, shot and thrown into a river. It is not that the murder did not occur; it is not that this shocking abuse of this woman and the destruction of family life did not occur; it is that it did not occur on this side of the New South Wales-Queensland border. It is purely a jurisdictional issue. Where is the assurance, the comment, the pledge that if Crump is able to avoid the full force of the law, that is imprisonment for the term of his natural life, criminal charges will be brought against him in Queensland for murder? That case has not been heard in the Queensland jurisdiction. Where is the assurance that Queensland will fill a technical void in this case? There is none.

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All of us must make it clear in the resolution of this issue that it was never the intention of the Legislature, when it addressed the matter of truth in sentencing, that Crump would be released. The legislation was never intended to weaken the sentence of never to be released that was imposed on Kevin Garry Crump. There was never any intention on either side of the Legislature that Kevin Garry Crump’s sentence be reduced, that the life sentence imposed on him should mean anything less than for the term of his natural life. The Legislature has to make that clear today. Before the decision on 24 April the Crown sought to keep Crump behind bars. As I understand it, the Director of Public Prosecutions also sought to keep Crump behind bars. The Crown submitted that the totality of the crimes warranted not only refusal of the application but a direction that Crump never be allowed to reapply.

In rejecting that application, the Supreme Court of New South Wales, through Justice McInerney, sought to interpret what the Legislature had meant and, in my view, interpreted it wrongly. That is why we have to make it clear today. The judiciary of this State, the Supreme Court of New South Wales, states correctly that it has to operate within the laws determined by this Legislature. So be it: that is why the bill before the House is so critical. If the bill is not embraced by the Government, it reflects on all of us, and the confidence of the community in us as legislators is reduced. I say that not in any partisan way but as a concerned citizen determined to have the Legislature express its view, redefine the spirit of earlier legislation and make it totally clear to our judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales that this is where we stand and let there be no mistake about it, let there be no misinterpretation.

Yesterday Brian Morse, the husband of Virginia Morse, came to my office. That man remains, and will remain for the rest of his life, totally devastated by the loss that he and his family have sustained. We owe it to him, to the Morse family and to the community to support the bill. It is critical that we make it clear once and for all that Crump must remain in gaol for the rest of his life and that no technicality, no misinterpretation of the spirit of legislation passed by the Parliament, will make it otherwise. If we do not enact the law to clarify an attempt by the Parliament on a previous occasion to keep people like Crump in gaol for life, then we do not deserve to be here. The community will say that we are weak-kneed and hypocritical unless we, as a Parliament, support the bill. There can be no more important or clearer expression of our determination to protect the community, to rid it of violent criminals - those who in no way recognise the sanctity of human life - than by supporting the bill.

Despite the short notice of this legislation being brought on for debate today, I support it with every fibre of my being. The Minister for Local Government may not have had an opportunity to look at the detail of the bill or to cast his mind back to its earlier introduction, but I ask the Minister to consult with the Attorney General and the Premier to support the bill. The test before us today is not presented to the House in Liberal-Labor terms. It should not divide us on partisan grounds. It should unite us to make a statement about humanity, about values and about our determination to see that the criminal laws of this State are upheld and strengthened, not weakened or diluted by misinterpretation and reliance on technicalities.

If the bill is not passed by Parliament, if a clear message is not given by Parliament today, I will make a frightening prediction: the level of community support and confidence in the ability of Parliament to pass and enforce criminal laws which reflect community values will be put at risk. The community will judge us on our failure to support and reinforce the legislation, on our failure to restate the spirit of legislation which was considered on an earlier occasion and misinterpreted on technical grounds. We have the opportunity to clear the matter up once and for all. We have the opportunity to send a message that Kevin Garry Crump should never be released and that the Legislature on a previous occasion made a determination which it expected would apply to Kevin Garry Crump and which has since been misinterpreted.

Let us close the loophole. Let us send a message of support to the community. I commend the bill beyond any measure, perhaps more than any other bill I have introduced into this House. I ask for the support of the House and of the Government. I ask the Government to acknowledge that there should be no shelter or refuge in legal technicalities for Kevin Garry Crump. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned on motion by Mr E. T. Page.