John Siermans, father of Sharon.
Photo Courtesy of: Natwick
THERE WERE MIXED FEELINGS on a chilly May dawn today when we started our ten-day Jail 2 Justice walk from Langi Kal Kal Prison to Melbourne.
Positive vibes that we were trying to do something for a community wracked with anger, frustration and fear over what’s been going on in our courts and parole system.
But also the underlying truth that many of our supporters, including most of those walking today, have personal stories to tell and all of them sad ones.
They are the people we walked for today. A symbolic ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ event to show that Australians do care and want to do something about it.
And it was epitomised outside the prison wall at the start, when I played Elvis’s version of the song.
We can only imagine the nightmare that started to engulf the man standing next to me, 14 months ago, when his unsuspecting daughter was bashed to death in front of her young son by a would-be suitor who was on parole for sex crimes at the time.
John Siermans, father of Sharon, lost his daughter and became an ‘instant dad’ to her four-year-old son, who witnessed his mother being bashed to death with a cricket bat.
Convicted rapist Jason John Dinsley was on parole when he decided to attack and kill Sharon Siermans. He had been released from prison only eight months earlier (after serving six years for a vicious rape in St Kilda) when he murdered Sharon after a failed attempt to rape her.
Despite the emotions of today, John Siermans (seen below walking alone in a reflective moment) went the whole ten kilometres with us. I know we’ll be walking with people, with tragically similar stories to his, in the days ahead.
We’ll also be spotlighting the petition for a national public register of convicted sex offenders -- the way Americans have had a Megan’s Law since 1996. The morning I left Langi Kal Kal in March, after serving 50 days for contempt of court, we had 34,000 names on that petition. Since then, another 80,000 of you have signed it.
As I wrote earlier in the week, there are 5000 criminals on the sex offenders’ register in Victoria alone and most of them are anonymous. Living in a vulnerable, unsuspecting community. Maybe living near you.
Their names, and photographs and evil criminal records, are protected from campaigners like me. When we can reveal details – that you have a right to know about – we do have results.
A classic case is Ali Jaffari. I first wrote about this convicted predator and inveterate child stalker back in March when a Geelong magistrate, for ‘cultural reasons’, refused to even hear a case over the brazen attempted abduction of a four-year-old girl from a park.
A concerned parent recognised him from my blog recently when he started stalking eight-year-old boys at footy training in Albert Park and hanging around public toilets.
I wrote a desperate follow-up editorial. One of the most emotional, fed-up, appeals I have ever penned.
I simply said:
THIS IS AN APPEAL to police, to the courts, to the child welfare authorities, to the so-called protectors of this community. It is an appeal to sanity. And if I don’t do this, I will never be able to forgive myself if something awful happens to another child. And, believe me, it will.achieve my goal of having
this community threat deported.
Major media got behind me. The Herald Sun, Channels 7,9 and 10.
Jaffari was detained, questioned and released. But. As part of that raid, police allegedly found evidence that I believe will achieve my goal of having this community threat deported.
Jaffari now faces charges of possessing child pornography. If convicted he faces a lengthy jail sentence.
The Afghani refugee has avoided deportation in the past even though he is already on the sex offenders’ register for previous convictions of indecent assault on teenage boys at a Geelong pool. For those offences he got 300 hours of community service. (Go figure!)
According to our bizarre immigration and deportation laws, that doesn’t make him an undesirable resident, doesn’t make him fail the ‘good character’ test under his protective visa. But if sentenced to more than 12 months jail for the latest alleged offences, Jaffari loses that protection. I hope he is worried.
I watched the Channel 7 News in the Beaufort Hotel last night over an early dinner in preparation for today’s J2J walk and felt good. It was a good omen. If the ‘Help...Please!’ editorial hadn’t gone up, the fire would not have been lit.
Also bolstering the cause yesterday was the sentencing of that smug, self-important paedophile Robert Hughes.
I tweeted I thought the former star of Hey, Dad! would get eight years with a minimum of six. He got 10 years 9 months with a six-year minimum.
brave, indefatigable co-star
of the now jailed paedophile.
It would have been better if the minimum were higher but the judge was restricted by the sentencing limits at the time of the historical offences. True, he could have made the sentences cumulative. But judges rarely do because of the risks of being overturned (on precedent sentencing) on appeal. And Hughes is appealing his convictions and sentence.
Seconds after the length of Hughes’ jail term was tweeted, I talked in Texas to Sarah Monahan, that brave, indefatigable co-star of the now jailed paedophile.
Her instant reaction: ‘Yay!’
She told me: ‘I was huddled over Twitter. I am thrilled. I am thrilled and relieved. Yay... I knew the judge would have to take into consideration the historical penalties. I thought a slap on the wrist. Maybe a year. Maybe even time served. It was worth it for all of us’.
Hughes, Jaffari and yesterday’s blog warnings about Neil Hogg. We are on the move. The pollies and the courts had better be listening.
About 45 of us started out from Langi Kal Kal this morning. At the end of the first ten kilometres I stole a quote from a baseball movie: ‘Build it and they will come’.
See you in Brunswick on May 26th . The movement is on the move.