THE WORLD must look a little different from the bench, perhaps not so firm and hard and fast as it seems to your garden-variety citizen, the innocent sort who brings to the courts a belief that justice is rational, consistent, never swayed by race or creed. Judge Margaret Rizkalla of Victoria’s County Court is aware that the workings of the legal mind can be a mystery to the common folk, especially where sentencing is concerned, and she has gone to the trouble of explaining the imponderables she must wrestle when giving bad people what’s good for them.
“Sentencing is one of the most complex tasks a judge undertakes because it requires balancing a number of complex factors, both personal to the offender and particular to the offence, in order to provide a just and appropriate sentence, whilst at the same time providing justice to the offender. It isn’t a mathematical equation – in the final analysis it does require the individual judge to make a subjective assessment of all the relevant factors and to determine how they will be applied in fixing a sentence. It is never easy.”
Rizkalla must have put a good deal of thought into deciding the appropriate punishment for Damien Tektonopoulos, who masqueraded as a masseur and rubbed 14 women the wrong way. In 2007 Rizkala sent him away for ten years, with a minimum of eight to be served. It is impossible to feel sympathy for such a nasty piece of work, but his decade in a cage does raise an eyebrow after the judge’s latest “subjective assessment”, which saw Almahde Ahmad Atagore imprisoned for a series of very similar assaults. In the Libyan student’s case, however, the sentence was a mere five years, with his release anticipated in 2013. If Tektonopoulos feels hard done by after copping twice the time for essentially the same crime he needs to understand that Atagore had an excuse, at least as Rizkalla sees things. Being a Muslim, the way Australian women dress and behave could only inflame Atagore’s lusts.
“It seems you were very ill prepared to deal with cultural differences,” the judge told him. It is too late for Tektonopoulos to shrink his stretch by embracing the Prophet’s creed, but if the courts were to review Atagore’s sentence, perhaps with a view to adding a few years, it might make our homegrown perv a little happier to know that judges, some judges, really are opposed to discrimination based on race and religion.