The responsibility of the state was made clear following the criminal trial of Andrew Garforth. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 1993 for the rape and murder of Ebony Simpson in 1992. The loss of her daughter has understandably been hardest felt by Ebony’s mother, Christine Simpson.
In July 2015, the Serious Offenders Review Council made a decision to lower Garforth’s prisoner classification from A2 (maximum security) to B (medium security), making him eligible to apply for work and rehabilitation courses. The Council notified Mrs Simpson. She contacted the media. The story was broadcast on TV Channel 9 A Current Affair on the 13th of July 2015.
Mrs Simpson then created a successful online petition, collecting 30,000 signatures in 24 hours, to have the reclassification revoked. The public outrage that followed and Christine’s Simpson petition drove Corrective Services Minister David Elliott to revoke the classification decision and return Garforth to his original maximum-security classification. Mr Elliott stated: “I have come over the top of the Serious Offenders Review Council and have today instructed the Commissioner that Garforth gets zip.”
A Current Affair quoted Justice Action’s coordinator as having said that the Simpson family “needs to get over it”. However that was not true. The transcript shows our statement focussed on the reconciliation of both the family and Garforth:
“It’s a shame for the family to still hold onto such anger towards the man after such a long period, after twenty three years. It’s a good thing for him and a good thing for the community. It’s absolutely essential that Corrective Services does focus on moving him into a lighter less security place. It’s to their benefit, everybody’s benefit, that he can then move on and get some measure of freedom and improvement. It’s a really sad thing to have lost their child but to link it to the man, to the offender, is a shame. They should at some stage, clear the air, move on with their lives, and let him move on with his life as well”.
Justice Action encourages victims and their families to achieve a sense of personal closure, focussing on moving past their anger, and through the help of the wider community to be guided towards leading a more normal life.