20 Jun 2013

The Questions We Should Ask About Adrian Bayley

By Sarah Krasnostein

If we want safer streets, we should do something useful with our anger about Adrian Bayley's crimes and demand an evidence-based approach to prevention, writes Sarah Krasnostein

The social, online and print media response to Adrian Bayley’s sentencing hearing could have helped make us safer.

Instead, space was devoted to stories about the kebabs he ate with his girlfriend the day after his crimes. A “secret fling” he may have had. Video clips of Bayley getting out of a police car. Photos of Jill Meagher’s distraught family. People commenting that they would “put a bullet through his head and invoice his family for the bullet”. Interactive maps of the crime scene.

That space and time and energy could have helped save future lives by asking what causes men like Bayley to become violent sexual offenders in the first place and how those causes can be redressed before they result in rape and murder.

Yes – Bayley needs to be incapacitated. Yes - in this instance, our parole system failed catastrophically. Yes – it requires improvement and may benefit from the review currently on foot. Yes – Bayley’s previous rape sentences are controversial and the reasons for them are worthy of scrutiny.

But the exclusive focus on these considerations makes two fundamental mistakes. First, it assumes that human error is representative of the daily workings of the entire criminal justice system. Second, it makes sentencing policy the panacea for public safety.

Even if human judgment were always perfect and we had endless money for prisons, sentencing cannot ameliorate pains already inflicted nor can it bring people back to life.

A point made at Bayley’s sentencing hearing has been glossed over in the media and its significance largely ignored.

Professor James Ogloff, Foundation Professor of Clinical Forensic Psychology at Monash University and Director of Psychological Services for the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health, gave a professional opinion about Bayley that was used by the Crown as evidence about the high likelihood of his re-offending.

As Justice Nettle noted in his sentencing remarks, this opinion gave a “framework or context” for Bayley’s sustained and terrifying sexual violence which explained it without excusing it. Ogloff diagnosed Bayley as having traits consistent with Borderline Personality Disorder, impeding his ability to control emotions and behaviour.

Ogloff explained that although around 40 per cent of the disorder is genetic, its expression depends for the most part on environmental factors. We heard that its expression in Bayley was heightened by physical abuse by his father starting from when he was nine years old. There was also discussion of possible sexual abuse from an older female which began around the same time.

Whether or not we believe this in Bayley’s case, seeking an explanation for violent sexual offending is the difference between acting to prevent it in future or reacting to it after it occurs.

The media could have used its vast power, particularly at this time of heightened awareness, to seek such explanations.

It could have investigated the factors that coalesce to create sexually violent offenders like Bayley who derive sadistic pleasure from hurting women. It could have asked whether repeat offending of that nature is a matter of rational choice or pathology, and if the latter, whether it can be treated, whether its causes are inherent or environmental, and how they can be counteracted. It could have asked how our government is addressing the root causes of violence against women.

Journalists could have asked what lessons Bayley’s appalling criminal history — of rape starting from when he was 18 years old with a quarter of his life spent in gaol — teaches about the efficacy on relying largely on the blunt tools of policing and punishment after the fact. They could have asked why his previous sex offender program failed, whether that program represented best practice and was sufficiently funded. Whether other countries are doing this better.

They could have asked whether the money we are currently spending on building bigger prisons would be better spent on empirically-proven psychological early interventions and behaviour change programs for male offenders who have displayed these attitudes towards women. They could have asked where relying so heavily on criminal solutions to problems which are also matters of social and health policy has gotten us.

Journalists could have engaged with Professor Ogloff’s evidence about the links between childhood trauma and future emotional and behavioural functioning. They could have debated the merits of the empirical evidence about long-term impacts of witnessing, and being a victim of, domestic violence as a child.

Such discussion is vital one in Victoria, where family incident reports submitted by police rose from 40,839 in 2010/11 to 50,382 in 2011/12 and where children are routinely involved in family violence police call outs and cases flooding our specialist family violence courts. Many people overcome childhood trauma. There is not a rule that child victims go on to become adult offenders. But there are some who repeat cycles of violence.

All of which is to say, we could have had a public dialogue about public safety that involved cures and not band-aids.

Instead, most of the coverage was characterised by sensationalist details about Bayley’s crimes and demands for superficial, knee-jerk solutions which have already been demonstrated not to deter.

There were reported calls for mandatory sentencing — a sledge hammer to crack a walnut. Besides reacting only after crimes have been committed, mandatory sentencing uses a broad-brush approach which, when used elsewhere, has been shown to be ill-suited to selective incapacitation. It would waste correctional resources we do not have on people they weren’t intended for, with detrimental collateral consequences for families and crime rates. If this approach worked, the US would be one of the safest places on earth.

There were reports heralding a new criminal offence of breaching parole. This is a stop-gap at best, insufficient to “stop future Bayleys”.

There were reports of increased policing of parole violators and bail jumpers who  “will continue to commit offences from shoplifting to murder”. The problem of targeting “shoplifters to murderers” is that it widens the policing net to the point where those who pose an actual risk of violent and sexual re-offending are lost in the sheer numbers. Reactions of this type are responsible for the issues Victoria currently faces with its voluminous sex offender registry: when we remove the discretion of judges to make meaningful distinctions in culpability, we overload our systems to the point where the real threats aren’t apparent and cannot be effectively monitored. 

The arguments for indiscriminately harsh punishments, more offences, bigger prisons and wholesale restrictions to parole and bail which have been given so much room over the last week are symbolic but not effective. Instead of “getting tough on crime” they increase our vulnerability because they do not address the causes of offending and they come at a horrible cost. They are funded at the expense of — among other things — a proper commitment to early intervention programs and other social, health and education programs which are capable of breaking cycles of violence.

If we want safer streets, we need to do something useful with our anger and demand a rational, evidence-based approach to crime prevention. The approach that we are continually reading about now — relying on increasing levels of “law and order” after the damage has already been done – sells papers and gets votes but it doesn’t work. Pushing it harder also won’t work. We can do better.

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Posted Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 17:58

Sarah Krasnostein clearly knows her subject and I'm sure that if someone who has the unfortunate tendencies of the Bayley's of this world can be found early that it would help. As we know such programs are expensive and our society is loathe to fund them. What is happening now is frightening and when the parole board falls down on its job and lets dangerous people roam amongst us we are entitled to an explanation. Perhaps we need a combination of help for dangerous people and at the same time, if they are believed to be incurable, they should be kept away from the rest of us. In general it appears in this country that the average prisoner lives better than many of us on the "outside". Some actually commit crimes in order to be sent back to prison. Our law system seems to have been set up by lawyers, run by lawyers for the benefit of lawyers; the general public seems to come last on the list. So, I apologise Sarah, I agree with your article, but the bottom line is safety for the innocent over the rights of the guilty in the last analysis. If push comes to shove that's the way we should go.

Posted Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 19:14

There are a few problems with the suggestion that "we need to do something rational with our anger". Anger is not one single emotion but a range of emotions that have been inadequately processed and become intertwined. As many of these emotions are suppressed or repressed to begin with, many people have trouble reacting against the behaviour of those who become extreme in their counter-balancing of such suppressed behaviour.

While I very much appreciate Sarah Krasnostein's article, the likelihood of it gaining much traction among those who are part of this suppression and repression in themselves and each other is very slim. The previous comment points to the continuance of this "too hard basket" mentality.

What do I know about such cases to be able to offer useful and realistic suggestons?

I know of a male who murdered his first wife at the age of 23. He considered himself "once a Catholic, always a Catholic" yet his second wife was Anglican. While he continued to suppress much of his emotional life, this wife did learn something of the manipulation by his mother after his father left when he was aged 2yrs. Of their six children half went with the father and half stayed with the mother. The family album had a number of images where those who left her were cut out and not allowed to be talked about. This could be considered a form of death.

However the distrust of women in this case probably goes further back than this "social" behaviour to the hidden abuse in the bedroom. An older brother raped this boy when he was 9yrs old. That the mother was unaware and failed to protect the boy is also embedded within his psyche.

Although he was in the psychiatric division of Pentridge early in his sentence, this was more to do with suicide watch than assistance with his deeper issues. That he could choose divorce after ten-years of re-marriage, despite continuing to consider himself Catholic, shows change is possible.

One of the problems people have about an evidence-based approach is their expectaton that their own desired outcomes are proven. Each individual proves their own expectation, and that often means continuing past behaviors rather than believing in their own capacity to change. Judgment is not a purely rational process, but also a very emotional one at times.

Some people would judge this man as unwothy of consideration as a potential marriage partner, but he went on to marry a third time. Nothing in the system really helped his situation change. It was the people who came in contact with him and both accepted his past and his present with them, who really made the difference over an extended time.

We are each responsible for the attitudes we carry and the way we express them. We each have the opportunity to postively influence others or, at the very least, withhold limiting judgment to allow appropriate recognition of those in need of help and flexibility to choose another way. All too often the horrors of those who have been let down in one situation build up through institutions which give them access to more horror stories than solutions.

We all need to look at our part in that process. We all need to consider the price we pay in human as well as financial terms. Each small act toward change within ourselves is greater collectively than any single Act of Parliament we fail to embody and take full responsibility for.Some things are just too important to outsource to "professionals". Professionals also need community support through individual citizens, just as individuals who slip through the cracks do. At the end of the day we all pay in one form or another. Let it be with awareness rather than anger.

we need to do something useful with our anger and demand a rational, evidence-based approach to crime prevention. - See more at: http://newmatilda.com/2013/06/20/questions-we-should-ask-about-adrian-bayley#comment-formwe

Posted Saturday, June 22, 2013 - 00:01

We wonder what went wrong.
As if the sexual objectification of women isn't bad enough; ie presenting them as little more than meat (as an Au Muslim Religious Leader also described it a while ago) leaving little wonder that some of the impressionable public in turn view women as little more than meat.... we are surely going by the same way as shown by the telling phenomenon now seen in Italy where the career which young girls most aspire too, is that of a "velina".
That's those scantily clad mute chicky babes that parade around on stage with old male tv hosts in suits.

It's been nearly 20 years since channel 9's "sex"[?] program as hosted by sexy Sophie Leigh and directed at young people suggested at app 8:35pm (as I recall because it left me a gasp at the time) "if you're giving head to a guy, don't forget the balls, they're very sensitive"

We've come a long way since tv show "number 96" where at that time, two adults in bed together had to be shown with one sitting up.
Unless I'm mistaken, it's been nearly 20 years also since cheap phone sex adds started to be advertised on TV after midnight.
And "Lolita" is art, not just plain old smutt.

Allan Jones sexualises children in his mind's eyes, and blurts it out on radio too by asking a girl that was raped from the age of app 12yo if she perhaps 'had it coming'[my words] or in his words 'if she encouraged it'[paraphrased].

I can only wonder if our society and legal system isn't loopy when a rapist of a prepubescent child can be out in a s little as 4-7 years, as was the case of a woman and her partner that were sentenced for having violated a child in that manner about 3 months ago, and a murdering rapist can be sentenced to 15yrs.
How does that stack up when a leader of a gang rape, imprisoned a woman and racially abused and raped her for a day before releasing her, to be given 52 years. Was the fact that he was of Lebanese origin a factor in the public's and the judge's disdain.
Don't get me wrong, I couldn't care less for him, give them all 52 years.

TOO RIGHT we should be angry, and particularly when it comes to harming young people.
It's the normal thing to do. It's in our genes.
Even Animals do it, watch them herd around to protect the young against any aggressor as they do their best to rip his or her bloody throat out.
See how natural, normal and beautiful a sight it is. Watch the youtube video "battle at Kruger" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU8DDYz68kM
Tell me that you don't find that video inspirational.

But these "people" are missing a chromosome and our media and entertainment industry bears some culpability in the atmosphere they create.

Are our police doing all they can, those at the top I mean.... destroying potential evidence.

Just how many people at the BBC knew about Jimmy Savile: it seems; plenty!

Our own governments.. http://www.gwb.com.au/gwb/news/goss/

Why!, some even get knighted and are embraced in the royal household.

With loopy judges, media, police and governments covering up paedos and god know what goes on with the family of our head of state; You dare to wonder why grown women aren't spared?

Wholesome society doesn't much like criminals, but we all know a couple of things about them as a group.
In jails, dobbers and cops are prey.. I assume that's because of self serving interest by crims; but none are reviled more than paedophiles.
In the main, even though jails are full of crims, they aren't missing that chromosome. That basic important moral judgement which tells you deep down to rip their bloody throats out

I have a solution, it may appear a little sexist, but; throw them to a group of mothers, coz I rekon the blokes will finish them off too quick.
15 years is not enough.

Posted Saturday, June 22, 2013 - 00:11

My mistake, that was john singleton, not Allan Jones.
I must have filled them away together in nearby compartment in my brain.

Jones only allegedly performed lurid acts in public toilets in the UK... oops, and then the police dropped the charges.
Just for a laugh.. watch how Chopper Read handles Allan Jones as Kerry Anne takes "the high moral ground"