Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

Hate crime in Broulee

November 23, 2022

Pictured above (ABC News: Holly Tregenza) is a power line easement just outside Broulee.  Here, on the afternoon of Sunday 2 February 2020, the body of Peter Keeley, 56, was found. His feet and arms were bound with masking tape (the arms behind his back) and there was also masking tape around his head.  A nearby car still contained the keys, his wallet and his mobile phone.

Keeley had been lured with the prospect of a sexual encounter from Canberra to this spot by AN, aged 17. They had been communicating on Grindr since the previous afternoon.  When they got to the spot (after Keeley picked AN up at Broulee), AN attacked Keeley and was almost immediately joined in the assault by LM and WD, also both 17, who were lying in wait nearby as a result of a plan which had been hatched between them earlier that afternoon.  The trio beat and bound Keeley and left him there.  Keeley was found dead about an hour later by a man who had gone there to walk his dog.

All three were charged with murder.  AN and LM were acquitted in a judge-alone trial, because the possibility could not be ruled out that Keeley had died just from the drugs he had been taking, in particular methamphetamine.  Justice Walton’s reasons for this are here.  The murder charge against WD was then withdrawn.

AN, LM and WD pleaded guilty to specially aggravated kidnapping under s 86(3) of the Crimes Act – the special aggravation consisting of the kidnapping having been committed in company and on the occasion of assault causing actual bodily harm.

You can read the sentencing judgment here.

AN was sentenced to 5 years and eight months with a non-parole period of 3 years and 8 months, eligible for release in December 2025.  LM got 4 years 4 months, non-parole 2 yrs 11 months (eligible for release June 2024) and WD 3 yrs 10 months, non-parole 2 years 7 months (eligible for release in September, ie, already by the time the judgment was handed down).

Justice Walton held that  AN, LM and WD were entitled to “discounts” for pleading guilty of 12.5%, 20% and 15% respectively.  This is a reduction in the sentence which would otherwise be imposed, on account of the utilitarian value of a plea in saving society the aggravation and expense of a trial. The differing discounts relate to the differing circumstances in which pleas of guilty had been offered by each.  He held that AN’s culpability was greatest as the instigator (it could not be proved that LM and WD had any involvement until about 1pm on Sunday, by which stage AN’s plan to lure Keeley was well-advanced).  WD benefited from ameliorating circumstances relating to a deprived upbringing.

It’s a mug’s game to argue about actual sentences.  So many things go into the mix.  Young offenders are entitled to a more lenient treatment: there is a greater emphasis on rehabilitation than either retribution or deterrence.

All the same, if you can bear to read the judgment, your blood may well boil, as mine did, at some of the arguments offered by the offenders’ representatives to talk the sentencing range down.  All sorts of straw men were put forward as potentially more serious specially aggravated kidnappings which could have occurred and which would be offences which might attract a top of the range sentence – the maximum sentence being 25 years.  There was no torture (how do we know? – OK I realise that this just means no torture was proved beyond reasonable doubt), no ransom demand, and, best of all (at [156] of the judgment):

the precise period of the detention is not known since it ended when the victim passed away for an unrelated reason. …There is no suggestion that the intention of the offenders was to detain the victim for a long time and the court could not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the offenders detained the victim for more than a few minutes. At most, it could have been for the 30 minutes suggested by the Crown. In any event. the period of detention was well short of the hours or days which are often involved in more serious examples of the offence.

His Honour rejected the “few minutes” submission, but to me the obvious rejoinder to that is that even if technically the detention only lasted while the three offenders were present, its effect continued after they left the scene, as they must have been aware.  As the court held, on the basis of agreed facts, when the offenders left the deceased, he was in a very vulnerable position. Having been seriously assaulted, he was left unable to move or call for assistance. He was left alone in a remote area.  No attempt was made by any of the offenders to obtain medical assistance for the deceased. 

As to the “no ransom demand,” that seems to be lining this crime up for comparison against totally different types of kidnappings. 

His Honour identified that the vigilante aspect of the crime was one which called out for deterrent sentencing, but he also said “it was not an adult-like offence” [227].  This was a further reason for not punishing them as adults, and hence effectively letting them off or at least substantially reducing the deterrent imperative in sentencing.

And here is the rub.  It all starts with the characterisation of the offence and the offenders’ motives.  This was what the judge said about that:

Motive and Purpose of Detention

161.       The submission of the Crown with respect to motive has been set out in AN and LM (No 1). AN accepted that the purpose and the motive of the kidnapping was to derive “some sort of attempt to humiliate the [deceased] and to dissuade him from sexually exploiting underage young men in the future”. There was no attempt to hold the deceased for ransom and it was submitted that the expectation was that the deceased would eventually free himself (although it is not at all clear given the binding of the deceased how that expectation may have been held by the offenders).

162.       I consider there is considerable force in the submission advanced on behalf of WD in this respect. The purpose of the detention was to facilitate, in the case of AN and LM, to assault, intimidate and humiliate the deceased. In the case of WD it was the opportunity of assaulting, intimidating and humiliating the deceased. I agree that that purpose is less serious than to torture, or sexually assault the deceased or to hold him for ransom but it nonetheless reflects at the offending’s serious [sic].

163.       As to the question of motive, I accept the submission of the Crown and WD that the motive for the offence and the acts of intimidation, humiliation and assault was the perception that the deceased was a paedophile.

164.       This is not a mitigating motive. Nor is it an aggravating one. This is vigilante conduct, but it should not be taken into account as an aggravating factor, particularly since intimidation, humiliation and assault are integral to the offence as charged: Sorensen v R [2016] NSWCCA 54 at [128] – [129]. Whilst the motive does not elevate the objective seriousness of the offence, it is relevant, in my view, as to the question of general deterrence, although counterbalanced with other factors I will discuss. This is particularly so, because, as the Crown submitted, the offenders were each of the distorted view, at the time, that their behaviour was justified. This Court should actively discourage the type of vigilante justice which lays at the centre of the offenders’ motive.

165.       An additional motive for AN was to rob the deceased of drugs he expected him to bring.

It’s not possible to follow up the reference to AN and LM (No 1) because that case (R v AN; R v LM [2021] NSWSC 1657) which was the decision acceding to AN and LM’s application for a separate judge-alone trial on the murder charge is for no very clear reason not published on the internet.

If the prosecution had submitted that “the motive of the kidnapping was to derive “some sort of attempt to humiliate the [deceased] and to dissuade him from sexually exploiting underage young men in the future” that is, in my opinion, an insulting trivialisation of the trio’s motives.  Likewise and even more so even if understandably if that was a defence submission.  The motive was not merely to dissuade “the [deceased]” but to punish him.  This was ostensibly because he was a pedophile, but even that doesn’t quite tell it all.

The basis of the claimed belief that Keeley was a pedophile was (1) in the Grindr chats with AN, Keeley had told AN that he had once had sex with someone who he was told was 16 but who turned out to be 14 and (2) because he wanted to have sex with AN.  (LM told the police (sentencing decision at [127]) that the plan was formed: “because [AN] is underage, and he [ie Keeley] wanted to meet up with [AN] to have sex, from what I’ve heard, and that he has had sex with a 14 year old in the past.”)

Leaving aside that AN had told Keeley that he was 18 (which he may not have told the others), AN was not “underage.”

Lurking behind this belief and ascription of labels is something going waay back with which gay people are all too familiar.  We could still be at Alexandria and the murder of Richard Johnson.  To describe the crime as a vigilante crime sells it short.  It is a hate crime, in the sense that the motive is a hatred for a despised group which is accompanied by a perceived entitlement to mete out punishment to the despised group.  The despised group at the outset was homosexual men, because that is what AN sought out in Grindr.  We don’t know what he thought he would do but he was never there in search of gay sex.  He was always there with malicious, hateful motives.  Justice Walton acknowledged that in what he possibly thought was just a wry remark at [194] when he described the Grindr messages between AN and Keeley:

“The content of the communication unambiguously demonstrated an intention of the two to meet for the stated purpose (in retrospect probably untrue from AN’s point of view) of engaging in drug-taking and sexual activity.”

Keeley’s mention of the time he had sex with a 14-year-old was confirmation of what AN was predisposed to believe.  AN only learnt of it because he had embarked on a hateful course of action from the outset.

The elision of gay man with pedophile is familiar to gay men as something analogous to the blood libel for Jews.  It lingered in the grudging equalisation of the gay age of consent.  It’s definitely still out there.

Practically speaking, many vigilante crimes are also hate crimes, in the sense of motivation by hatred of a group, because it is the perception of a group as despised which emboldens the vigilantes to act.  This is a point which has recently been made in Western Australia following the death of Cassius Turvey.  In my opinion (well, I would say that wouldn’t I, as a member of such a victim group) that is an aspect of vigilantism which needs to be specifically addressed and denounced in sentencing over and above merely condemning people for taking the law into their own hands.  Hate crimes hurt the group against which they are directed.  It is not just a matter of what these young turds did to Mr Keeley.

Actually, s 21A(2)(h) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act says that it is an aggravating factor (ie warrants additional punishment) if

“the offence was motivated by hatred for or prejudice against a group of people to which the offender believed the victim belonged (such as people of a particular religion, racial or ethnic origin, language, sexual orientation or age, or having a particular disability)”

which makes surprising (to me) the judge’s remark that it was not an aggravating factor that a motive for the crime was the perception that Keeley was a pedophile.

I need to get this off my chest and move on.  There is more I could say about the judgment, even though I understand that, because the offenders are young offenders, much of it is a kind of Dutch auction to talk the sentence down from what would normally be imposed to something more “rehabilitative.”  All the same, I can’t help mentioning two more things.

Section 21A(3)(i) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act identifies “remorse” as a mitigating factor in sentencing.

When AN was arrested, he was of the belief that he was responsible for Keeley’s death.  Quite frankly, but for the reasonable doubt, I expect that will be the view of many.  The reasonable doubt got them all off the hook for criminal responsibility.  AN said to his father at this moment:

“Dad, I’m sorry Dad…I didn’t do it on purpose, it was an accident, I didn’t mean it to happen. I didn’t mean to Dad. I didn’t want it to happen.”

At [239] Justice Walton says: “the immediacy of the admission in such circumstances amounts to tangible evidence of remorse and contrition.”

Really?  Sorry to his Dad that he’s got into trouble, coupled with exculpatory statements in relation to Keeley’s death is an indication of remorse?  Puhleez! (OK, I can have a queeny moment here if I like.  No-one’s going to kill me for it, are they?)

Finally, because the offence for which AN, LM and WD were being sentenced was aggravated kidnapping, his brother and former wife were not able to read victim impact statements to the court.  That is because relatives are only victims if someone has been killed.  The only person who got to speak up for Mr Keeley in any way was Chantelle Walsh, a young druggy associate whose statement got into evidence in the murder trial.  Her statement is summarized at [196] to [209] of that judgment.  It’s not much, but in a case which otherwise is far from devoid of a kind of pervasive victim-blaming (see [193] of the sentencing judgment for an example), it’s worth a read.

I suppose I’d better get on with my life now.

Abraham and his seed

July 9, 2022

It’s never too late to learn something new.

Yesterday I spotted a tweet from our (still) new Prime Minister, Mr Albanese, announcing “warm greetings to Muslims in Australia and around the world” on the occasion of “the great festival of Eid al-Adha.” (Derivative link here.)

I knew about the Eid which marks the end of Ramadan. What was this other Eid? It turns out that this celebrates (thankyou WikiP, though WP says “honors” rather than “celebrates”):

the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ismail (Ishmael) as an act of obedience to Allah’s command. Before Ibrahim could sacrifice his son, however, Allah provided him with a lamb which he was supposed to kill in his son’s place because of his willingness to sacrifice his own son in the name of God.

But hang on! Doesn’t this ring a bell? Didn’t Abraham do something similar with his (other) son Isaac (pictured above in a characteristic soft-core treatment attributed to but it turns out possibly not actually by Caravaggio)? A famous Wildean aperçu comes to mind.

It’s hard to see how the two stories can be reconciled with each other. One version (I hardly dare say which) has much earlier documentary provenance, for what that’s worth. For a spirited defence of the other, see here.

In his seasonal greetings, Mr Albanese says:

The symbols and ceremonies of Eid al-Adha speak to us of the human capacity for sacrifice in the name of love. Of the sacrifices made by a parent for a child. Of a friend for a neighbour. Of a community for the greater good.

That strikes me as a triumph of interpretation. What couldn’t Mr Albanese make of the story of little Pavlik?

Lockdown 10

September 30, 2021

On Tuesday afternoon at about sunset I heard the first channel-billed cuckoo.

That’s about 11 days after the first koel.

You never hear so much from the female koels, who have a different cry but are generally more discreet, and I’ve not so far heard one. [Update 6/10: first female heard today.]

I’ve been amusing myself thinking what it must be like to be a male koel who has arrived ahead of any other koel. It made me think of my late friend Md and the time he arrived far too early at the Katana Club.

I’m not sure about gender-responsibility for channel-billed cuckoo’s raucous squawk.

Lockdown 3

July 20, 2021

General mood (not just me): Cranky.

Where to start?

Forget the specifics of the pandemic.  Too depressing.

Better far a remoaner grudge against the forced amalgamation in 2016 of Canterbury with Bankstown to form the mega Canterbury-Bankstown “LGA” (Local Government Area, if you haven’t mastered the lingo).  This has been revived by the NSW Health Officer’s habit of imposing restrictions based on LGAs.

From today’s SMH:

Suburbs such as Hurlstone Park, Earlwood, Croydon Park and Canterbury have barely a case between them and are a 28-kilometre drive from virus-ridden Fairfield.

They appear to have been caught in tougher restrictions due to 2016 council amalgamations, when Canterbury and Bankstown merged to form the most populous local government area in Sydney.

‘‘We at the ‘Paris end’ of Canterbury should not be lumped in with Bankstown, Fairfield,’’ commented [Hurlstone Park] local Jeff Swain.

What about Ashbury? Is this how the SMH rewards Con Vaitsas?

On the posh bus

June 6, 2021

“Wow, this is a posh bus!” I thought to myself as I settled down on the 442 from the city to Balmain a bit before 6pm.  The mix of passengers was a cross-section well above that on other buses I generally catch towards where I live in Canterbury.

Balmain’s current upward social trajectory started about 50 years ago, as the locale invoked (retrospectively, he’d left years ago) by Neville Wran as a tough school (“Balmain boys don’t cry”) became a byword for inner-urban trendiness (“Balmain basket weavers”).  There’s still some public housing in Balmain, but its residents are in the main public housing aristocrats. They probably weren’t on an early evening bus out of the CBD.

I was on my way to a “conversation” between Benjamin Law and Emily McGuire about Emily’s new novel, Love Objects.

The bus heads straight out of the CBD over Darling Harbour without any of the usual (for me) jolting stop and start through city streets, and the crawl over ANZAC Bridge passed more quickly than I expected before the first stop after the bus turned off Victoria Road into the lower reaches of Rozelle.  I got off at the last stop before Darling Street, just around from the Balmain Library, where the “conversation” was to occur.

The library occupies the ground floor of the Balmain Town Hall.  In fact the event was in the actual hall, upstairs.  I’d never been there before.  You can get better pictures on the web. The one at the head of this post is mine.

I was particularly taken with this (I’m guessing) ventilation thingy in the middle of the ceiling.

I’d not seen one of these before.  I wonder why they stopped being built.  Is it a relic of gas lighting?

A few more people arrived after took the top picture, though I doubt if our number rose above fifty.  Aside from me and D (who came direct from home, though passing up the opportunity to take the 445) there were perhaps 3 or 4 men apart from the pair manning the desk pre-emptively set up at the back corner for post-event book sales and signing.

Benjamin and Emily took to the stage.  Benjamin (I’m going to presume on first-name terms for the balance of this post) thanked us for coming out on a rather chilly “school night” and the conversation got underway.

Benjamin started the ball rolling by talking about hoarding.  His play which was put on last year in Melbourne dealt with this topic, and it is also a central theme of Love Objects.  Though Benjamin didn’t mention it I recalled that, in a detail which didn’t make it into the TV adaptation of The Family Law, he had his own experience of something not quite hoarding but not so far removed.  In the 80s his (from memory here) uncle and aunt and their family were on the run from Australian immigration.  They were ultimately deported.  Their personal effects remained, stuffed in cupboards, in Benjamin’s childhood home.

It’s hard to sit through a conversation about a book you haven’t read – God knows I did that in a few tutorials when I did a degree in English Literature.  Thanks to the wonders of the internet and the smart phone, I was able to read a first-chapter teaser from the online preview.  It starts with the main character, Nina, on her way home in Leichhardt from her job at a local supermarket, lingering over various found objects.  It is artfully done from Nina’s point of view and textbook dramatic irony.  As the details build up little by little you gradually triangulate your own perspective. 

I may not be a hoarder at Nina’s level but I am definitely on the spectrum.  My appetite was whetted.

Benjamin is obviously a dab hand at this sort of thing and he steered the conversation adroitly through the three main characters and some plot themes.  The questions afterwards, unlike many questions at such events, were mercifully unexcruciating.  There were not all that many.  To each of them Benjamin responded “Thank you so much for your question.”  Laying it on with a trowel?  “He’s very sweet,” D later remarked.

Then it was over.  We were asked to fill in audience-feedback sheets, and people began to gather and line up at the desk in the back corner.  As far as D is concerned, I have far more than enough books already.  “Don’t even think about it!” he said – or words to that effect. 

The Inner West Library has 6 copies of Love Objects.  I am 74 on the reservation list.

Popular discontent

May 12, 2021

Continuing a series, of sorts. This last September at Dulwich Hill shops:

Anarchism in the suburbs

May 4, 2021

Following on from my last post:

New Canterbury Road, Hurlstone Park. Presumably with educational intent as just in front of the [Roman] Catholic primary school.

Letting off steam

April 18, 2021

Posted in a bus shelter on Canterbury Road near my place. I find such signs of resistance on the part of local anarchists cheering, though it seems unlikely they will persuade any actual police to quit the force.

The man in the iron mask

November 19, 2019

A man has been found guilty  and imprisoned in Canberra in secrecy so complete that the prison administrator (if you can believe this) did not even know what he was in gaol for.  He has now been released after what could have been about a year inside or maybe more (it’s a secret, you see).  Likely as not he is still on parole. His identity and details of his crime still cannot be published.   See [2019] ACTSC 311.

I find this pretty disturbing. The judgment mentions  that orders were made about the conditions of the man’s imprisonment with the man’s consent and it seems likely to me that he pleaded guilty to whatever the offence or offences were.  But is his consent (if given: someone claiming to be him on twitter says not) the end of the matter?  What about open justice? What agency is being protected from embarrassment by these secretive acts done in our name?

Postscript: more here.

Academically approved

August 21, 2019

On Friday with D to the Conservatorium to see/hear a “dress rehearsal” of Psyche, billed as an opera by Meta Overman.

What is she? I hear you ask (not) – assuming you’d even determined the gender.

MO was born in Rotterdam in about 1907. She emigrated to Australia not long after WWII with her young son and pianist husband.  The impetus seems to have been to escape post-war privations in the Netherlands – relatives had accommodation on offer in Perth.  To escape the Perth heat, they moved to Albany.

Albany!  I have spent time there on account of my late aunt.  In the early 50s it must have been a remote spot indeed.

Overman wrote Psyche for the first Perth Festival, in 1953.  It is based on a novella/fairtytale by the Dutch writer, Louis Couperus.  A 1908 translation is available online.

The Perth Festival was and remains a venture of the University of Western Australia.  Psyche was conceived to be performed at the sunken garden there which was used as an outdoor theatre (my mother related to me more than once seeing Jacqui Kott there in Midsummer Night’s Dream).  It’s a special place amidst the sandy wastes of the West.  Meta Overman’s ashes were scattered there and, as it happens, I scattered (unauthorised by the University but at her written request in a document found amidst her effects) some of my Albany aunt’s there when the time came.

Psyche eventually had 10 performances there in the 1955 festival.  It was poorly attended and a financial disaster and this amongst other things apparently led to the end of Overman’s marriage.  She decamped to Melbourne with her son and  (I infer: he is  apparently still living and was active as a jazz pianist as recently as 2012) a rather younger man (not that there is anything wrong with that).

It is easy to imagine why Psyche was not a success with the 1955 Perth public. Aside from the obscurity of its fin-de-siecle source, it  was a novel work – scarcely an opera in conventional terms.  Only two characters – Eros and Psyche’s elder sister, Emeralda, are portrayed by singers.  Psyche herself was represented by a dancer, a male (I assume) dancer represented the Chimera and a Satyr who interact with her – with the Satyr (shades of Debussy) also shadowed by an obbligato flute soloist.  Psyche’s younger sister was represented by a harp solo.  The balance of the instrumental music was provided by Overman’s husband on the piano.  Two other characters were spoken by actors.

For this revival, Jeanell Carrigan semi-orchestrated the piano part for a small ensemble whose makeup seems to have been determined by the availability of the SSO fellows – a string quartet, double bass, flute, oboe and bassoon.  The solo harp and flute parts  were retained and JC herself played a still-extensive piano part.

The music was accessible and dramatically apt without stretching many boundaries and to that extent can be excused criticism of the sort that Dr Carrigan (in my opinion unduly dismissively) levelled against Elliott Gyger’s music in her review of Oscar and Lucinda .

In the scene involving the Satyr the music launched slightly incongrously into treatments of O du lieber Augustin and another song which I recognized but still cannot name.  There may have been other songs referred to here.  The best I can do by way of explanation for this is that in the novel as translated the Satyr is dismissive of “classical music” and these songs therefore represent something more popular. he Wikipedia entry on O..Augustin, which should be updated in the section on “Use in other musical works” to include reference to Psyche, mentions that “The melody is also used in “Daar wordt aan de deur geklopt”, a Dutch children’s song for the celebration of Saint Nicholas Day

I felt the instrumentation was a little cautious and could profitably have expanded, even with the available forces, more beyond the still very evident backbone of the piano part.

The actors both had microphones, which was in my opinion a misstep even if necessary for them.  Singers and actors had books (not always consulted) and it didn’t look to me as if this was just for the dress rehearsal.  The dancers (who were excellent) gave the most fully realised performances.

I enjoyed my encounter with a slightly clunky oddity.