Serial rapist and murderer David Birnie is considered one of WA’s most heinous criminals.Western ‘s “worst of the worst” mass murderers and serial killers will remain behind bars without consideration for parole for lengthy periods under proposed new laws.
The legislation introduced to parliament on Thursday would allow the state’s attorney-general to order parole authorities to suspend consideration of release for the most heinous of offenders for up to six years and extend it up to six more.
Currently, once a minimum jail term has been served, the Prisoners Review Board determines whether the offender can be granted parole, with reviews every three years.
Attorney-General John Quigley says the policy aims to reduce the trauma of the parole consideration process for families and friends of murder victims.
Mr Quigley said Kate Moir, who at 17 escaped after being held captive by serial killers David and Catherine Birnie, approached the government to reform parole laws after a long but so far unsuccessful push.
“We say if there’s no prospect of being released on parole, then why should the secondary victims be put through this process every three years?” Mr Quigley told reporters.
“These people are never able to put behind them the worst trauma of their lives.”
The government wants the legislation passed before Birnie and William Mitchell, who in 1993 murdered a woman and her three children in a drug-crazed axe attack in Greenough, have their parole reviewed next year.
Shadow Attorney-General Michael Mischin questioned whether the legislation only dealt with the easiest cases that the PRB and attorney-general would never release.
“The attorney-general currently has the power to reject any recommendation for parole for these sorts of cases,” he told reporters.
Murdoch University law professor Guy Hall said the PRB already contacted victims’ families to get their thoughts about parole review – even in cases like Birnie and Mitchell’s where there was no realistic possibility of release.
“There is an element of grandstanding here from the politicians but if we’re serious about saving the victims’ families from suffering each time parole is considered, then the victims of all murderers should only be contacted when parole is seriously being considered,” he said.
Prominent Perth lawyer Tom Percy said populist, vote-seeking politicians should leave such matters to the judiciary, which had a transparent process that could be subject to an appeal if necessary.
Birnie’s son Peter McLauchlan supports the planned legislation.