THE imminent release of a Rockhampton pack rapist has sparked a political row about the handling of dangerous sex offenders.
Stanley James Saunders, 39, is set to be released next month on a supervision program having served a 12-year jail sentence for his part in the brutal group rape of a woman.
In 1997, Saunders was convicted of multiple offences, including four counts of rape, after he and two other men took a woman to an isolated area, beat her and repeatedly raped her for several hours before continuing their assault again the following morning.
Experts say without supervision upon release Saunders is a moderate to high risk of re-offending, but they believe he can be adequately managed through a five-year program.
However, the LNP's shadow attorney general Lawrence Springborg said releasing Saunders was a dangerous move, particularly given the over-stretched and under-resourced Corrective Services Department.
“To release someone like Saunders out onto our streets to be supervised by an over-worked Corrective Services monitoring unit is potentially a very dangerous move,” Mr Springborg said.
“Saunders has been a violent sex offender, and a remission assessment, conducted in 2005, noted that throughout the programs he undertook, there remained an attitude of denial and minimisation of the offences …which is of real concern.
“Dangerous sex offenders who pose a risk to the community should not be released; it's that simple.
“To release an offender who is deemed a danger to the community beggars belief.”
Member for Mirani Ted Malone said if Saunders was to be released he should be under 24-hour supervision, otherwise he should be kept in jail.
Mr Malone, who earlier this week presented a petition to parliament against the establishment of a sex offenders' house on prison grounds north of Rockhampton, said a GPS ankle bracelet would enable the authorities to keep constant track of Saunders.
He said amendments introduced into parliament by Labor were nothing more than a watering-down of existing laws with potentially dangerous consequences.
“Queensland courts could impose supervision orders for 10 to 15 years, but the Government is proposing to limit the length of supervision orders to just five years,” Mr Malone said.
Attorney-General Cameron Dick said Queensland had the toughest sex offender laws in Australia.
“An application for a continuing detention order was made in this case,” Mr Dick said.
“It is this Government's policy that, in all cases involving the Dangerous Prisoners (Sex Offenders) Act, the State applies for a continuing detention order.
“In the particular circumstances of this application, the Crown accepted the expert evidence provided to the court and the order was made by the Supreme Court.”
He said Mr Springborg's suggestion that every prisoner remain in custody no matter what their level of risk to the community, would eliminate the discretion of the Supreme Court and could potentially render the entire Dangerous Prisoner scheme unconstitutional and consequently invalid.
He said the Government's Dangerous Prisoner and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, introduced in parliament this week, limited supervision orders to five years allowing the Supreme Court to apply greater scrutiny to offenders under supervision orders to ensure community protection remained paramount.
In 1997 Saunders was convicted of multiple offences, including four counts of rape.
He was drinking with friends when he offered to take a woman to the watch-house to see her boyfriend who had been placed on a drink-driving charge.
Instead, Saunders and two others took the victim to an isolated area and asked her to remove her clothes.
When she refused they beat her and over the following hours the three repeatedly raped and sodomised her.
The next morning the victim was taken to a co-offender's home where she was further raped and assaulted.
During his time in prison Saunders has a history of breaches of discipline, offensive and threatening behaviour and refusing to obey direction.
“While no supervision order can ever ensure completely that there is no risk, in the circumstances of the present case, and based on the uncontested expert opinion, the risk can be reduced to acceptable limits by a supervision order,” Judge Philippides said in his decision, which was delivered in the Supreme Court on August 26.
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