23 March 2012

Judge criticises Australian immigration laws as people smuggler goes free

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A Brisbane District Court judge yesterday set an alleged people smuggler free and took the opportunity to criticise Australian immigration law for the lack of discretionary sentencing powers available in people smuggling cases.

Australian immigration

Jude Milton Griffin criticised the lack of discretion judges have in sentencing people smugglers.

Judge Milton Griffin ordered the alleged people smuggler, 23-year-old Indonesian Albah Ruliimi, be released immediately and chastised Australian immigration law for judges and magistrates being unable to exercise any discretion when it comes to sentencing in cases of people smuggling.

Mr Ruliimi, a crewman from eastern Java transporting asylum seekers to Australia, had already served two years in jail. Judge Griffin claimed the crewman, a low ranking member of the scheme who had he received further jail time, would be being punished while the organisers and beneficiaries of people smuggling schemes continue to operate without concern.

"In this legislation, the judges are deprived of the right to any particular sentence," said Judge Griffin. "Judges are directed by the law so there is a minimum sentence of three years.

"So for someone in the defendant's position, he would have been required to spend three years in jail had there been proof.

"So the lowliest of the crew members or the most money-grabbing of sea captains who direct the voyage, they're all lumped in by the legislation into the same boat."

The prosecution had failed to prove that any of the crew which Mr Ruliimi had sailed with had any prior knowledge of the intention to smuggle people into Australia. Judge Griffin said the jury could 'draw their own conclusions' as to what the legislation allowed judges to determine appropriate punishments for people smugglers.

Mr Ruliimi's decision comes just days after two other alleged people smugglers were also set free in Brisbane's courts.

Australian lawyers will meet in Melbourne in April to discuss defence strategy in the pending cases of 27 people smuggling trials.

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