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Castration and hate crime legislation: a model to avoid in Australia

By Alexandra Tennant - posted Friday, 15 April 2016

Brett Peter Cowan, the man responsible for the murder of 13-year-old Daniel Morcombe in 2003, sodomised his first child, a seven year old boy, in 1987. He was found guilty of indecent dealing but was only sentenced to two years jail. His victim got a life sentence.

In 1993 an innocent child of six suffered the same fate, collapsing at the BP Palms service station after staggering from the woods. Molested and left to die, he had blackened eyes, blood blisters and horrific injuries below the waist. At the hands of the sexual sadist, the boy should have been dead. For this Northern Territory attack his assailant received a sentence of a mere six years, of which he only served four-and-a-half.

It took 30 years before Cowan was sentenced to life imprisonment for the abduction, likely sodomisation and murder of Daniel Morcombe in 2003.


For 30 years, Cowan ran free to pluck children from the streets. For 30 years, he was able to enact his darkest fantasies on innocent children.

The high-profile Morcombe case has reignited the debate regarding the effective treatment of child sex offenders, with the vast majority of the public calling for stronger penalties and sentences.

But this begs the question: what is an appropriate sentence for such offences, and appropriate to what- the seriousness of the offence, the circumstances of each case, the desires of the victim, our sense of justice?

Whatever the answers, our laws, particularly in terms of sex offences, are increasingly being drafted to manage moral panic rather than manage the sex offenders and despite constitutionally guaranteed rights to equal treatment under the law, politicians are looking for quick fixes to community concerns.

While voluntary chemical castration has long been available to serious sex offenders in Australia's prison systems, a NSW government taskforce is considering the use of anti-libido drugs to chemically castrate all child sex offenders before they even see the inside of a cell.

NSW Justice Minister Troy Grant claims that by introducing chemical castration as a judicial sentencing option, we can expect to see lower rates of recidivism amongst child sex offenders.


"17 percent of child sex offenders are likely to reoffend in two years… We must do everything possible to reduce that figure."

Brett Collins from Justice Action, an activist group that focuses on abuses of authority, is unconvinced.

"We actually know that it hasn't been effective for them anyway," he said.

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About the Author

Alexandra Tennant is based in Brisbane and is completing a bachelor of business management/arts at the University of Queensland.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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