Push for Victoria to strengthen ‘no body, no release’ laws
Callous killers who don’t assist police with recovering the body of their victims will never be allowed to leave prison, under a new bid to strengthen laws. Tania Maxwell's motion.
Murderers would never be released from prison if they refused to lead police to their victims’ bodies under a proposed expansion of Victorian laws.
In an Australian first, the controversial call for “no body, no release” rules will be taken to parliament on Tuesday by Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party MP Tania Maxwell.
It is an extension to current laws in Victoria under which convicted criminals could be refused parole unless they revealed where their victims’ bodies were hidden.
Since 2017, when that law was introduced, there have been seven Victorian prisoners affected.
Ms Maxwell’s proposed new laws would extend the punishment further by removing a killer’s prospect of being allowed to enter the community again. She said this could be done through amendments to the Serious Offenders Act, which provides power to the Director of Public Prosecutions to apply to the Supreme Court to make a detention order for an offender.
In her motion to parliament, Ms Maxwell will call on the Andrews government to implement the practice, recognising “our state no longer has sentencing that delivers a true life sentence for perpetrators of serious violent crimes”.
According to data from the Sentencing Advisory Council of murder cases from July 2016 to June 2021, the median term of prison is 22 years.
Just 10 per cent of murder cases received a life sentence.
If successfully implemented, it could mean that Robyn Lindholm, who killed Reservoir man, George Teazis, would never be freed from jail.
Ms Lindholm, whose earliest possible release date is in 2044, when she will be 71, has never revealed where Mr Teazis’ body remains.
Mr Teazis’ sister-in-law Deb has backed the proposed law changes, saying it would bring closure to the grieving family.
“Hiding where the body is, is one of the cruellest things a murderer can do. As much as you try to move on with your life, it’s something that forever hangs over you,” she told the Herald Sun.
“We can only imagine what was done to George, and sometimes wondering is worse than the facts.
“It’s traumatic. Victims deserve to be laid to rest. We can’t actually put George to rest because we don’t know where he is. He deserves people at a gravesite saying goodbye.”
Thomas Keith Halliday, who killed Mildura mother Shelley Joy Stephenson in 2006, also would not be freed from jail.
Ms Stephenson’s body still hasn’t been found, but police believe Halliday put it into a disused hot water service cylinder before filling it with gravel and dumping it into the Murray River.
If in place years earlier, the laws could have meant Katie-Lee Tanner’s killer would still be in prison.
The man accused of murdering Brunswick woman Maryam Hamka, if found guilty, would also face the prospect of never being released.
Police allege the 36-year-old was killed on April 11 last year by a 41-year-old who has been ordered to stand trial after pleading not guilty.
Ms Hamka’s brother, Hassan, said such a law would bring some comfort to the distraught family.
The concept of ‘no body, no parole’ – which came into effect in 2017 – was first legislated through the Justice Legislation Amendment (Parole Reform and Other Matters) Bill on December 8 2016.
Similar rules apply in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.
The rules apply in the case of murder, conspiracy to murder, manslaughter and accessory to manslaughter.
At the time Premier Daniel Andrews said of the scheme: “This is the right thing to do, but it needs to be done properly.”
Ms Maxwell said such changes would be a “small consolation” for families serving a “life sentence of pain and misery”.
“We want killers who won’t assist police with recovering the body of the deceased to stay in prison,” she told the Herald Sun.
“When someone has been killed and their body is not recovered, their loved ones are serving a life sentence of pain and misery. It is small consolation, but consolation nonetheless, that the perpetrator should serve a similar sentence.
“Some might suggest it is an unfair proposition for killers who have disposed of a body in a river or other location that makes finding the body near impossible – I say they should think of that before they choose to take a life.
“There are established cases where offenders have played ongoing mind games with our justice system and victims’ families over the location of the body – let’s take that power away from them.”