Criminal oversight

Adrian Ernest Bayley was on both bail and parole when he raped and killed Jill Meagher in Melbourne two-and-a-half years ago. This should be an oxymoron, although it is not.

A year before he attacked Meagher, he was arrested for beating unconscious a man in Geelong. At the time he was on parole for a string of sexual offences. Bayley pleaded guilty to the assault, then appealed, and was freed on bail.

The lifting of suppression orders means it can now be reported that Bayley raped two other women while on bail. The first was a sex worker who Bayley raped in an Elwood laneway in April 2012. The second was a Dutch tourist Bayley attacked in St Kilda in July 2012. Two months later, he murdered Jill Meagher.

In the course of Bayley’s latest trials, he was also found guilty of raping a teenage sex worker in 2000. The court heard Bayley punched his victim in the face before the rape, saying: “Do you know, I’m one of those bad guys?”

At this time, Bayley had already been jailed for the attempted rape of one teenager and the rape of two others, one a 16-year-old friend of his sister’s.

Soon after telling a victim he was “one of those bad guys” he was jailed for the rape of five more sex workers. In all, Bayley has been found guilty of 20 counts of rape.

Bayley has said he had only “gone through the motions” of rehabilitation before his early release after his first rape convictions. When he was sentenced a second time, and despite his prior convictions, he was not dealt with as a “serious sexual offender” and as such was not considered for associated longer sentencing.

When the Sex Offender Register was established in 2004, he was not placed on it. When he was released on parole, his victims were not told. Nor were police.

This grim history is pocked with moments when things might have gone otherwise – interventions never made, information never shared. When Bayley killed Jill Meagher, the parole board was still operating on a paper filing system and with a part-time chairman. Its annual budget was just $2.5 million.

A review at the time found 50 violent sexual offenders were in the community despite breaching parole orders. A further 16 serious sexual offenders were living in Victoria without any monitoring of their behaviour.

The horror of Jill Meagher’s death saw the updating of the parole board’s filing systems and the doubling of its budget. Both are welcome changes, but the system remains imperfect.

Adrian Bayley is yet to be sentenced for the three rapes on which he was convicted after Meagher’s murder. He is already serving life in prison, with a non-parole period of 35 years. This will only be extended.

The appalling fact, however, is that it took such a long history of sexual violence for a conviction such as this to be applied. It asks serious questions of the community and of the courts.

That Bayley offended mostly against sex workers is one factor. His crimes would almost certainly have been better known, and dealt with differently, had they been committed against women in another profession. As a society, we have to ask why that is. The answer is unpleasant. So, too, have been the outcomes.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on March 28, 2015 as "Criminal oversight".

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