The release of Melbourne schoolgirl Masa Vukotic’s killer into the community was a catastrophic failure of the justice system, Victoria’s Corrections Minister Wade Noonan says.
Mr Noonan confirmed it was Victoria’s Adult Parole Board that released 31-year-old Sean Price back into the community, despite a 2012 decision that he be placed on a 10-year supervised order to continue sex offender treatment in a custodial setting.
“When you look at the circumstances of Sean Price and that he was allowed to return to the community with almost no restrictions, I think it demonstrated that there was a catastrophic failure of the justice system, in this case,” he said.
Price is awaiting sentencing for the frenzied murder of Ms Vukotic, 17, and the rape of a woman in March.
A series of psychiatric experts had warned that Price struggled to cope in the community and one psychologist predicted he would stalk and attack women if his mental health deteriorated.
The Government has established an independent review led by Justice David Harper to examine the circumstances that led to Price’s management and release, as well as the parole system more broadly.
“We’re very keen to understand what changes need to be made in light of what we now understand to have been the circumstances of Sean Price, and that review is due to be completed by the end of October,” Mr Noonan said.
“We can’t have catastrophic failures in our justice system like the one that’s occurred in this case.”
Victims of Crime Commissioner Greg Davies said it was devastating news that Price was released despite the warnings.
“This decision will only re-victimise Masa’s family,” he said.
“Surely they’ve had to contend with enough, without the system that they pay for letting them down so desperately.”
Tightening of supervision orders for sex offenders
Mr Noonan said the State Government had already begun making changes to tighten the monitoring of sex offenders on supervision orders.
“The fact that a murder has occurred forces the Government to review and very quickly make changes, because we are absolutely determined to make sure the community is kept safe,” he said.
“We have already introduced … new laws that tighten the net around serious sex offenders, including removing the presumption of bail, in the case where a person on an order may offend again.
“We’ve also given more powers to police and corrections staff to enter and search premises to monitor compliance.”
Mr Noonan said he believed the parole board was already “working very differently” than it had in previous years.
But Mr Davies said the case showed that the system was continuing to fail.
“Unfortunately when Jill Meagher was murdered by a person in not dissimilar circumstances to Price, I used the term that it had been a catastrophic failure of the system,” he said.
“It appears that not much has changed in the time between Jill Meagher’s murder and Masa Vukotic’s murder, and it’s about time things did.
“We’ve had inquiry after inquiry, we’ve had lots of well-intended statements come out of those inquiries, now all people want is for the system to be fixed.”