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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin Alcohol and other drugs knowledge centre Yarning Places

Indigenous disadvantage does not diminish over time, High Court rules

Date posted: 3 October 2013

Disadvantage caused by a person's Indigenous heritage does not diminish over time and should be taken into account in sentencing of criminal offences, the High Court has found.

Lawyers for William Bugmy, a 31 year old man from Wilcannia convicted of assaulting a guard inside Broken Hill prison in 2011, had asked the court to consider principles for recognising Indigenous disadvantage in sentencing.

The New South Wales Criminal Appeals Court recognised the so-called Fernando Principles, which take into account an offender's Aboriginal, cultural and social background, but the Crown appealed against the decision.

Bugmy, who has been been in and out of jail since he was 13 years old, was initially handed a reduced sentence for his offence because of the severe disadvantage he had suffered as an Indigenous man over a prolonged period. These disadvantages affected his health, socio-economic wellbeing and education.

The High Court overturned the Crown appeal that the Fernando Principle diminishes over times, particularly for repeat offender. The High Court found that a long criminal record does not diminish the extent to which Aboriginal disadvantage can be taken into account - which was the key element of the case.

The decision could mean less Indigenous people in prison.

Source: ABC News


Last updated: 3 October 2013
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