26 August 2003

On Line Opinion 25/8/03 | Graham Young argues that Pauline Hanson got off lightly :
Hanson pleaded not guilty but the jury unanimously disagreed. Once the verdict had been reached the only question left to judge Patsy Wolfe was the length of sentence. She determined it should be three years - the length of a parliamentary term.

In making the sentence the judge had reference to four previous judgements. The most comparable was the decision of the Appeal Court in The Queen v Karen Lynn Ehrmann. Ehrmann falsely enrolled 24 people on the state electoral roll with the intention of using them in an internal ALP ballot. Ehrmann pleaded guilty. She was sentenced to three years with a recommendation for early release after nine months.

In terms of proportionality, Hanson's crime was greater. Ehrmann pleaded guilty and showed some remorse, Hanson did neither. You'd have to say that Patsy Wolfe's call was a pretty fair one. She even allowed Hanson's position as a Member of Parliament as a mitigating factor. I would have thought that it should have been the reverse - Hanson should have been held to a higher standard. Hanson's supporters say she should have escaped sentence because she repaid the money. Well, yes, she did, but only when she had been caught. If she hadn't repaid then she may have been sentenced to six years in jail, as in the case of Lockhart (see who misappropriated $390,000.

Hard as it is to argue with Young's opinion on the Hanson sentence the Australian media has succeeded in doing it. For example on the ABC's Insiders last Sunday we heard breathless speculation that if a major party figure had received a similar sentence...

Well, sadly for the researchers at the ABC a major figure has. The same factual bungle has dominated the airwaves since the Hanson sentence was first announced.

No comments: