Nine males who pleaded guilty last month to gang-raping a 10-year-old girl at the Aurukun Aboriginal community on Cape York have escaped a prison term, with the sentencing judge saying the child victim "probably agreed" to have sex with them.
Cairns-based District Court judge Sarah Bradley ordered that the six teenage juveniles not even have a conviction recorded for the 2005 offence, and that they be placed on a 12-month probation order.
One of the adult rapists, Raymond Frederick Woolla, 26, is on the Australian National Child Offence Register following a conviction on March 29 last year for unlawful carnal knowledge of a female child - an offence committed after he was charged with the rape of the 10-year-old girl.
Judge Bradley said Woolla was the oldest and should have known a lot better.
"You cannot have sex with anyone under 16," she said. "However, as I said before, I am not treating anyone any differently in terms of being a ringleader, and in your case, again, I will impose a sentence of imprisonment but it will be wholly suspended so you do not go to jail today. But if you get into more trouble in the next year, you could end up in jail."
Woolla had been arrested on August 7 last year and the judge said the 14 days he spent in custody awaiting his sentence was to count as "imprisonment already served".
When sentencing the juveniles, Judge Bradley said: "All of you have pleaded guilty to having sex with a 10-year-old girl and (one of the juveniles) has pleaded guilty to having sex with another young girl as well. All of you have to understand that you cannot have sex with a girl under 16. If you do, you are breaking the law, and if you are found out, then you will be brought to court and could end up in jail. I accept that the girl involved, with respect to all of these matters, was not forced, and that she probably agreed to have sex with all of you. But you were taking advantage of a 10-year-old girl and she needs to be protected, and the girls generally in this community need to be protected. This is a very serious matter. It is a very shameful matter and I hope that all of you realise that you must not have sex with young girls. Anyone under 16 is too young. Some of you are still children yourselves. Others of you are adults but I am treating you all equally in terms of the behaviour. I am not treating any of you as the ringleader or anything like that."
She asked each prisoner to stand up and said she hoped they would realise it was wrong to have sex with young girls.
Judge Bradley then offered them probation and when each agreed to accept that, she said she would not record a conviction.
To one of the juveniles, she said: "You are still a child. You have pleaded guilty to one offence of rape. You have been in a lot of trouble in the past, though, and you still have some community service to do. You have not been doing that well. I am prepared to offer you probation but you have got to stick with the rules of probation."
The juvenile agreed and was then placed on 12 months' probation, with no conviction recorded.
Not mentioned in this story is that rape of children has become a widespread epidemic in Australia, which makes Bradley's irresponsible sentence all the worse.
Aboriginal children, including babies as young as seven months, are being raped by community members, with the crimes going largely unreported and with few cases making it to trial, a Central Australian prosecutor says.
Nanette Rogers, Central Australia's Crown Prosecutor, has written a dossier on the tragic state of domestic violence in Aboriginal communities which details horrific acts of abuse.
Dr Rogers cited an example from 2003 in which a man sexually assaulted a seven-month-old baby who he had removed from a room of sleeping adults. In the morning, her mother noticed blood on the baby's clothes but was too drunk to register what had happened.
In another incident, a male relative took a two-year-old girl into the bush and digitally penetrated her anally and vaginally at the same time. He returned the toddler to her father's camp, crying and bleeding.
Both children required surgery for external and internal injuries, Dr Rogers said.
Dr Rogers cited another case in which an 18-year-old petrol sniffer drowned a young girl while raping her as a number of children played in a waterhole a kilometre or so from the community.
"While she was playing in water he pulled her under, anally penetrated her, drowned her, probably simultaneously. The children gave very graphic evidence (against him)," she told ABC TV.
She said the acts were "beyond the range" of normal comprehension but there were many reasons they had occurred.
"Violence is entrenched in a lot of aspects of Aboriginal society here," she said. "Aboriginal people choose not to take responsibility for their own actions ... the reason for that malaise is mostly because of the entrenchment of violence in the whole of the community."
Dr Roger said violence in Aboriginal communities was "all around", particularly at stations in rural areas.
But because it was frowned upon to report the acts, few of the crimes made it to trial.
"All child sexual assault is happening at much higher rates than is being reported to police," Dr Rogers said.
If Australians take justice seriously at all, they will demand for Judge Bradley to be removed from the bench immediately. She quite obviously has no concept of what rape is. And how she can look at an adult with a prior record of raping a child, who has now raped another child with eight accomplices, and think that he doesn't deserve serious jail time is completely beyond my comprehension. If I could sentence those men, the ringleader with a history of raping children would be serving life in jail, and the rest would be serving serious jail time. Community service will not reform them, nor will it keep them from raping other children. Letting the ringleader and serial child rapist, Raymond Woolla, go free is a serious miscarriage of justice. It is laughable for anyone to think that he won't do this again.
How can any judge look at this case and accuse the ten-year-old of agreeing to have sex with nine men?! Obviously, she is incompetent and unable to comprehend the details and repercussions of the responsibility she holds in her hands, and is completely flouting that responsibility. Calling this sentence "lenient" is a giant understatement. What this sentence is -- probation and community service for nine child rapists -- is a huge miscarriage of justice. Bradley should step down voluntarily, if she has any respect for the position that she holds at all. If she won't step down voluntarily, she should be removed.
Hat Tip: Moonbattery