Jill Meagher's husband labels Adrian Bayley's sentence a 'disgrace'

Wednesday 19 June 2013 21.57
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Tom Meagher said his wife was 'the funniest girl in the world' (Pic: ABC)
Tom Meagher said his wife was 'the funniest girl in the world' (Pic: ABC)
Adrian Ernest Bayley was on parole for raping five women when he murdered Jill Meagher
Adrian Ernest Bayley was on parole for raping five women when he murdered Jill Meagher
Ms Meagher's family has asked for 'privacy and space'
Ms Meagher's family has asked for 'privacy and space'
Bayley will serve at least 35 years in jail
Bayley will serve at least 35 years in jail
The case has been described as a 'catastrophic' failure of the justice system
The case has been described as a 'catastrophic' failure of the justice system
Ms Meagher's family said they felt great sadness and great loss
Ms Meagher's family said they felt great sadness and great loss

The husband of Jill Meagher has said the sentence handed down to the man who raped and murdered her was a "disgrace".

Adrian Bayley was jailed for at least 35 years for the rape and murder of Ms Meagher in Melbourne in Australia last year.

The 41-year-old was sentenced to life for the murder and 15 years for what Justice Geoffrey Nettle said was "a savage violent rape of the worst kind".

Justice Nettle, of the Victorian Supreme Court, said Bayley would have to serve at least 35 years in jail before being considered for parole.

Speaking to ABC in Australia, Tom Meagher broke down as he described his late wife as "the funniest girl in the world".

He said: "I don't think anything's enough. I can't think of a worse person than that man. And I wasn't expecting anything else. I wasn't expecting the judge to hand down life without parole, simply because people had told me this wouldn't happen.

"I certainly don't think the sentence for the rape charge was enough at all. Given what this man has done in the past, I think that 15 years [for rape] is a disgrace, considering the maximum penalty for rape is 25."

In a moving interview, Mr Meagher spoke about how much his life has changed since his wife's death last September.

"It's made me extraordinarily angry, really fearful," he said. "I mean and that's the worst thing for me. Because the way Jill and I lived was very free of that.

"We trusted people that we met, just because I think that's a good way to live, just because you can be open with people and you can be honest with people if you're like that and I think that's been ruined for me. And I think that's the worst part of it. It's just not being able to be myself anymore.

"She was incredibly funny. Incredibly witty. Just so smart and intelligent that she just brightened up any room she was in."

Bayley stared at the floor throughout the sentencing hearing, as Mr Meagher, Ms Meagher's parents George and Edith McKeon, and her brother Michael McKeon looked on.

Justice Nettle said Bayley's "small degree of genuine remorse" kept him out of the worst category of offender.

In a pre-sentencing hearing last week, the prosecution revealed Bayley's long history of violent attacks on women, spanning more than 20 years.

Ms Meagher's father issued a statement on behalf of her family.

"The police and prosecutors have ensured that justice has been done and we as a family want to thank them for this," he said.

The family has "no sense of personal outrage, just a feeling of great sadness and great loss," he added.

Bayley was on parole from a prison sentence for raping five women when he snatched Ms Meagher off Sydney Road in Brunswick.

She was trying to make a five-minute walk home after a night out with friends.

The court heard Ms Meagher, from Co Louth, was killed because she fought back and threatened to call the police.

The case has been described by Australian politicians, law experts and police as a "catastrophic" failure of the justice system.

Her family has asked for "privacy and space" following the sentencing.

Speaking in her home town of Drogheda, her uncle Michael McKeon said: "The details of what happened to Jill are distressing and no words can describe the consequence of this.

"Jillian lived a full and happy life with Tom, full of family and friends."

"We remember Jillian as the woman she was."

Speaking to RTÉ's John Murray Show, Ms Meagher’s aunt Catherine McKeon-Halpin said she was happy with the severity of the sentence handed to Bayley as it offered her family "good closure".

"He [Bayley] has been locked away for life and so there will never be a chance he will do this to another woman," she said.

She also asked people to show support for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre in memory of her niece.

Reaction in Australia to life sentence

Victorian Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said the manner in which Ms Meagher died was a key factor in legislators amending the law on parole.

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, Mr Ryan said the "gates of hell opened" when Bayley "first walked amongst us".

"The tragic fact is that a collection of circumstances, unlikely to have come together, did in fact come together, and it tragically occurred that Jillian Meagher was the brunt of the evil of this man," he said.

Mr Ryan said Ms Meagher's life and death had resonated with many people.

He said: "This has struck a chord with people the like of which I have not seen before.

"I have been in politics for 20 years plus a little. I practised law for 20 years, plus a little. And I've never seen the like of it.

"It captured the public imagination in a way which I think will be a testament to the life of Jillian Meagher for ever after."

Mr Ryan said Bayley would rightly spend most of the rest of his life in prison and he believed the prospect of Bayley "ever again seeing the daylight of freedom" is remote.

"This monster will be 76 before he can even apply to have parole," he said.