Friday, October 29, 2010

Sentence inadequate
Opposition grills Minister over paedophile teacher sentence
By Melinda Howells

Updated Tue Oct 5, 2010 1:52pm AEDT

Mr Wilson accused the Opposition of not letting the legal process run its course. (ABC TV News - file image)

Map: Brisbane 4000 Related Story: Judges 'continually imposing inadequate' child sex sentences Related Story: Teacher's rape sentence 'manifestly inadequate' Related Story: Teacher sentenced to jail for raping students The Queensland Opposition has used Parliament to argue a 10 year jail sentence is inadequate for a teacher convicted of raping and molesting students.

Gerard Vincent Byrnes, 61, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for 44 sex offences.

He must serve at least eight years, but with time already served he could be eligible for parole in just over six.

Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek has questioned Education Minister Geoff Wilson about the case.

"Given the offender was a student protection officer and given the Minister is responsible for the care of children with education providers, has the Minister made any representations to the Attorney-General about strengthening Labor's weak sentencing laws and, if so, will the Minister release it?" he said to the House.

But Mr Wilson accused the Opposition of not letting the legal process run its course.

Mr Wilson says it is an extremely serious issue.

"The most unpredictable Leader of the Opposition that we have seen in this House - utterly disrespectful of this House, utterly in defiance of what the law and proper practice would require," he said.

Premier Anna Bligh says it is inappropriate to comment while the Attorney-General is considering the material.

"They run the risk of jeopardising the case the Attorney-General may want to consider," she said.

Ms Bligh says these sorts of crimes horrify the community and parents.

Judging judges

Mr Langbroek says there should be an independent body to discipline judges who impose inadequate sentences.

He has told Parliament the same judge did not jail nine males who raped a 10-year-old girl in the Aboriginal community of Aurukun on Cape York.

"We need to start asking ourselves 'is it time that Queensland introduced an independent judicial commission that deals with the proper education and discipline of wayward judges?'" he said.

"Such a commission has successfully been in operation in New South Wales."

Attorney-General Cameron Dick says there are similar bodies in other states but the Opposition's idea is merely a "thought bubble".

"My concerns from the recent comments by John-Paul Langbroek and Lawrence Springborg about Queensland courts is that their idea of a judicial commission is nothing more than a political tool for an LNP [Liberal National Party] government to remove from office judges who they do not like or judges with whom they do not agree," he said.

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