Another deep rift between the controversial Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions, and some of the state’s most senior law officials has been exposed in the annual report of the Office of Public Prosecutions.

The DPP, Jeremy Rapke QC, has made front page news for several weeks following his decision to promote  junior female barrister Diana Karamicov after an allegedly inappropriate relationship. His department is divided by a campaign of leaks and the release of a letter by  chief crown prosecutor Gavin Silbert SC, attacking Rapke over the promotion of Karamicov and two other junior lawyers.

Just before the scandal became public, Rapke used his department’s annual report to attack several of the state’s most senior judges, including the powerful president of the Victorian Court of Appeal, Chris Maxwell QC.

Given the extensive coverage about Rapke over recent weeks it is surprising that his pointed criticism has not been reported.

In his director’s report, Rapke took aim at the state’s courts over “manifestly lenient” sentencing and cited a disturbing case as evidence that senior courts are placing too much emphasis on rehabilitation and too little on punishment.

He recounted the case of Edmond Malikovski, whose 16-month suspended sentence for a  two-day “spree of violence” was appealed by the DPP. Malikovski had fled to Austria for two years after being arrested for his part in the premeditated bashings of six people.

The DPP’s appeal was thrown out by three judges, including Maxwell, who criticised Rapke for binging the case before his court, stating that it “raises no issue of principle at all” and that the sentence was not so lenient that it called for intervention by the Court of Appeal.

Rapke used the Office of Public Prosecutions annual report to vent his frustration at the verdict:

“In my view, just punishment is a matter of principle.

“So a court imposes what in my opinion was an inadequate sentence on a person who has hidden for two years after being investigated by police for behaving in a despicable and cowardly manner. Despite my best efforts, it is nearly a year before the appeal is heard. The appeal is then dismissed on the ground, among others, of delay and I am criticised for instituting the appeal. Under the law at that time both prerequisites for bringing a Crown appeal were met — that the DPP consider a different sentence should have been passed and be satisfied that an appeal should be brought in the public interest.”

He further criticised the Court of Appeal for placing “undue emphasis on rehabilitation” at the expense of other purposes such as deterrence and punishment.

This is not the first time that Rapke has labelled other judges lenient, and he recently came under fire from two senior Victorian judges for a similar attack.

In the report, Rapke quoted Maxwell’s own words to defend his call for tougher sentences. He quoted the president saying “… that by reason of his statutory functions the DPP is, with the Court of Appeal, the custodian of sentencing standards in this state”.

Rapke vowed to continued his campaign. “I will continue to fulfil this vital function on behalf of the people of Victoria.”

Peter Fray

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