In September 2021, the Queensland Government introduced tough new parole laws for prisoners convicted of atrocious crimes who received sentences of life imprisonment for their crimes. The laws are intended to target people who are convicted of killing children and those who are convicted of multiple murders.
The legislation which is included within the Police Powers and Responsibilities and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 came following the application for parole by Barrie Watts. The community was outraged that Mr Watts may be released back into the community and called for the Government to do something to keep him behind bars. The laws were introduced to ensure that those who commit atrocious crimes have no guaranteed right to parole and in fact may never be afforded the opportunity to apply for parole.
Mr Watts is now 68 years old and has spent thirty-five (35) years in prison after receiving a life sentence for his crimes. He was convicted of the abduction, rape and murder on a 12-year old girl, Sian Kingi. The young girl was from the Sunshine Coast and the crime was committed in November 1987.
The Parole Board Queensland had granted Mr Watts a parole hearing prior to the laws being enacted, however following the introduction of the new laws this was rejected.
The Parole Board Queensland President now has the sole responsibility of determining whether convicted child killers and those who have committed multiple murders should receive a parole ban of up to ten (10) years. This ensures that the President of the Parole Board can step in where atrocious crimes were committed and where it remains unsafe to release the prisoner back into the community.
In Mr Watts circumstances, given the extent of his crimes he was deemed an unacceptable risk to the community if he were to be released.
Two convicted child killers have been the first to have their parole bans extended by the Parole Board Queensland President Michael Byrne KC.
Andrew Brownsey was the first to receive a parole ban for a period of eight (8) years in June 2022. He is serving a life sentence after being convicted of the murder of a 15-year-old boy in Strathpine in May 1988.
Alan Craig received a five (5) year ban, he is serving life imprisonment after being convicted of the murder of his two-year-old nephew in 2006.
Both Mr Craig and Mr Brownsey were deemed by Mr Byrne to be an unacceptable risk to the community if they were to be released on parole. Mr Byrne said, “ I have made this declaration because of the nature, seriousness and circumstances of the offence for which the prisoner was sentenced to life imprisonment; of the risk the prisoner may pose to the public if the prisoner is granted parole; and of the likely effect that the prisoner’s release on parole may have on … a victim.”
After comprehensive considerations the two men were issued their parole bans, which can be further extended in the future if they are still deemed an unacceptable risk in future.
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