Federal Mallee MP Andrew Broad criticises length of jail terms for family violence killings

FEDERAL Mallee MP Andrew Broad has criticised the length of jail terms handed down for family violence, particularly in cases where a woman has died.

Mr Broad told parliament on Tuesday night that women needed to have the same confidence in the courts as they did in front-line police officers.

“At some point our community has to say that our judiciary needs to get out of the 1970s and into 2017,” Mr Broad said. 

“Our police forces are putting their lives at risk all the time in apprehending these rogues in our community who are threatening women in their own homes.

“They take them to the court, but the court lets them do a plea bargain.”

Mr Broad said he wanted to send a message via parliament.

“Members of parliament will not take a back step when it comes to defending women in their own homes and when it comes to saying that family violence will not be tolerated.

“Ultimately, in time, that message will make its way through to the judiciary. But, at this point, the judiciary still has a lot to learn when it comes to realising that community attitudes have changed. 

“No more can this continue. No more. The people in our community have to feel safe.

“The women in our community have to feel that when they go to a police officer and seek refuge and when they seek to take their case through the court system, justice will be served.” 

‘Plea bargain’ in murder case

Mr Broad repeatedly made reference to the case of Mildura woman Karen Belej, who was killed in May last year by Brandon Leigh Osborn.

Osborn was originally charged with murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and sentenced to a minimum of six years in jail on Friday with a discount for time already served.

Osborn, aged 37, claimed that he had accidentally shot Ms Belej with his unregistered handgun, a high-powered .357 magnum revolver.

Osborn later admitted that he had placed the gun’s barrel just millimetres from Ms Belej’s head and pulled the trigger.

Mr Broad said Osborn should have received at least 15 years and he was frustrated by the “plea bargain” and the “inadequacy” of the judge’s comments during sentencing.

“We have a situation where an upstanding woman in our community, who was actually a White Ribbon advocate, can get shot in her own home by an illegal handgun that was purchased several weeks earlier and the guy will be out in five years,” Mr Broad said. 

“The judge made the comment that it was extremely reckless, dangerous and profoundly stupid to place the loaded handgun against her forehead and that cocking it and pulling the trigger were acts of violence.” 

Alleged threats

Using parliamentary privilege to guard against possible legal action, Mr Broad claimed he had been threatened by ex-AFL player Nick Stevens.

Mr Stevens was sentenced to three months in jail in July last year for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

The court heard during 2013, Steven's put his former lover's head against a bench and a splashback, hard enough for her to scar.

When she fell to the ground, Stevens kicked her several times and told her he was going to "beat her to within an inch of her life".

Two months later, he pushed her head into a brick wall.

Mr Broad said Stevens’, who had joined the Sunraysia Football and Netball League, showed “how the Australian judiciary is drastically letting our women down”.

“Nick Stevens … was appointed as a senior coach in a town. I took a stance against this,” Mr Broad said. 

“At the time he was appealing an eight-month jail sentence for beating up his former partner.

“He rang me on my mobile phone and explained to me who his lawyers were and that I shouldn't say anything — but I have the beauty of parliamentary privilege in this place.

“He largely threatened me and then he proceeded to tell me how it was all her fault and how nothing actually happened.”

Mr Broad said the Mallee community was “upset” that Stevens spent little time in jail.