ABORIGINAL legal aid solicitor Arjun Chhabra says the landmark High Court decision recognising social disadvantage must always be taken into account regardless of the number of times someone has been to court, has wider implications for the whole community, not just Aboriginals.
“This decision is not just race based,” he said.
Mr Chhabra was commenting on the High Court decision on Wednesday granting Wilcannia man William Bugmy permission to appeal to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal in relation to a decision last October which extended his six-year-term for a violent assault, handed down by the NSW District Court.
“It’s not just about social disadvantage in Aboriginal communities,” Mr Chhabra said.
In his work every day through the courts Mr Chhabra encounters members of the Aboriginal community who have grown up in deprived circumstances and first came under court notice at a young age.
“It goes without saying that Aboriginal history is a completely shared experience among communities and the experiences of certain individuals is felt and resonates within other communities,” Mr Chhabra said.
Mr Chhabra said he is encouraged the ruling will also impact courtrooms across the state.
“This is a directive to all sentencing judges and magistrates to always be mindful of an offender’s background,” he said.
“This decision speaks volumes,” he said.
Mr Chhabra said he believes another positive in the decision in the Bugmy case could also potentially lead to shorter jail terms for offenders who have grown up in deprived or violent circumstances.
Orange solicitor Mick Madden said he is also encouraged by the High Court ruling.
“It is a good outcome because it identifies some of the deficiencies which already exist in our system,” he said.
“This is particularly in regard to recidivist offenders where courts have a direct influence,” Mr Madden said.
In handing down its decision the High Court ruled that Bugmy’s personal circumstances and background had not been adequately taken into consideration when his original six-year jail term was extended last year to seven and a half years after he threw a pool ball at a guard while he was in custody in the Broken Hill correctional centre, leaving the guard blind in one eye.
The High Court heard Bugmy had grown up in a deprived and violent household, been in an out of correctional facilities since he was 13 and is a chronic alcoholic.