Evaluation of Australia’s criminal justice system

In Australia, to commit a crime, there must be an act or failure to act which breaks the law, the act must be seen as harmful to the whole community, and the act must be punishable by the state. In the effort to give an evaluation of Australia's criminal justice system I will present two case studies which detail the criminal law proceedings. Case Study One: "Killer's silence leaves chilling doubts. " -SMH 29/8/02 The first article regards the sentencing and subsequent punishment of a man, Michael Guider who abducted and unlawfully killed nine year old Samantha Knight 16 years earlier.

On August 19, 1986 at 4. 30pm Samantha left her mother's flat in Bondi on a trip down to Bondi Shopping Centre. Samantha visited the newsagency and bought a pencil and lollies, but Samantha was never seen again. It is now known that 52year old Michael Guider, a friend's babysitter, abducted her hoping to sexually assault her after administering 'Normison'- a commercial sedative hypnotic drug" in a drink of Coca cola. Guider told the court he accidentally gave her an overdose and she died, then he buried her.

Whether this is the true story and where Samantha is buried is still both unknown, even though Guider was convicted last year. The paedophile was already serving a 16 year sentence for 77 counts of sexual abuse against 13 children when he was charged with the murder of Samantha Knight. As this case was of the criminal nature against a person, the prosecution was the Crown (Regina). Murder is an indictable offence and the case was therefore heard in the NSW Supreme Court and the burden of proof was on the Crown to prove Guider committed the act of murder beyond reasonable doubt…

To be charged with Murder, Guider satisfied two of the three general principles of crime, constituted by: (a) Certain conduct by the accused person (Actus Reus) Guider's conduct at large, caused the death of Samantha. His act was also voluntary, as there was no evidence that proved Guider put Normison in Samantha's drink due to a reflex caused by pain or due to having no control over his mind (b) Which caused a proscribed effect (Causation) -The prosecution had little trouble proving Guider's conduct substantially contributed to the murder of Samantha, as he admitted administering the Normison to her.

(c) Which is done by a guilty mind – with intention, recklessness or negligence. (Mens Rea) Part C, Guider's Mens Rea was the part in which the prosecution found trouble trying to convict Guider of "Felony Murder. " This is because "An act does not make a man guilty of a crime unless his mind is also guilty. " The prosecution realising it would have been impossible to prove his intent to kill Samantha beyond reasonable doubt, and also to whether he was aware of the probable outcome of the overdose, made the prosecution lower the charge to Manslaughter.

Manslaughter is defined as satisfying the requirements of murder but it influenced by certain mitigating circumstances (provocation, diminished responsibility) which are usually the defendants qualified defences. Guider pleaded guilty to this charge. In the article the only defence apparent was Guider's submission that the overdose was due to accident. Accident is a complete defence, and involves an honest and reasonable mistake. Though far fetched, Duress may have been a defence he also used. It involves a situation where the accused commits the crime as an alternative to some other kind of action or inaction.

It is possible that Guider claimed he drugged Samantha so when he was performing his vile acts of sexual assault, he would not have to wrestle with her and cause physical abuse. Also he may have claimed defect of reason from disease of the mind, another complete defence. A disturbed childhood led Guider to display traits of the disease schizophrenia, never professionally diagnosed, but he could have claimed that the impulses associated with this disease caused him to act in the manner he did so.

The possible partial defence is intoxication. Guider may have been able to claim he was under the influence of drugs when he committed the abduction, and subsequently killed Samantha. The punishment and sentencing given for the crime of manslaughter, is often significantly less than murder, however in this case the Judge sentenced Guider a 17 year imprisonment. The purpose of the imprisonment of Guider is found in terms of deterrence, retribution, and incapacitation.

The 17 year sentence was delivered as a very strong element of deterrence to society, so as to convey to anyone who is minded to engage in similar conduct that he/she will receive a severe penalty. Retribution with 17 years in gaol for Guider was implemented, as a method of deterrence for the individual. Finally, the gaol term is a sanction and incapacitation so he cannot engage in paedophilia or recommit this offence again. Information was also offered in the article to explain the Judge's recommendation for rehabilitation after his gaol term ends in 2019.

Upon reading the case there were some obvious difficulties found in accessing and dealing with the criminal justice system for the victim and the accused. For the victim, her death, or location did not allow her to communicate with lawyers, and present her case. The prosecution have had to piece traces of information together and rely on Guider's story as the truth. Guider's location, already in a gaol, and his history was also a difficulty he faced. Accessing lawyers when you have been convicted of paedophilia charges and are already in gaol is much more difficult.

For the individuals in this case, Samantha Knight, her family and Michael Guider, enforceability, equality, accessibility, and the recognition of the individual's rights are the criteria on which the effectiveness of the criminal justice system is evaluated. A success found in the sentencing of Guider is his punishment being enforced through a maximum security gaol. This is a physical protection for Samantha's family and Samantha, if she is still alive, though highly improbable.