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Victoria: Director of Public Prosecutions says the raping of a nun is a worse crime than raping a prostitute

ELLEN FANNING: The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has claimed that the crime of knowingly raping a nun is worse than the crime of knowingly raping a prostitute. Michael Rozenes QC says that when Supreme Court Judges consider the impact of a crime on the victim, they must use 'an intuitive, instinctive synthesis when it comes to the sentencing process'. He made those comments last night at a small meeting of the Court Network organisation in Melbourne. Libby Price has this report.

LIBBY PRICE: Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Michael Rozenes QC, was invited to address the voluntary organisation known as Court Network on the topic of prosecution and victims of crime. In response to a question after his speech, he gave five examples of when the victim can influence the severity of the penalty, including this example.

MICHAEL ROZENES: There is a difference between a person who takes a nun off the street knowing she is a nun and appreciating that she has kept her virginity sacred for years, and with that knowledge raping her, in my view commits a greater crime than a person who snatches someone off the street not knowing who she is and commits that crime, who commits a greater crime than the person who is with the prostitute and has agreed to do certain things for certain dollars. And when there is a dispute about whether it involved one or two, takes the extra one for nothing; that person again in my view commits a lesser crime.

LIBBY PRICE: It was an off-the-cuff comment and one that immediately drew further questions.

MICHAEL ROZENES: Why - because the criminality in the mind of the person who says 'I'm going to take a five-year-old girl and rape her', in my view is greater than the criminality of the person who says 'I have paid for one, I'm taking two'. I think there's a difference.

LIBBY PRICE: But he didn't leave it there. Mr Rozenes rejected the suggestion that the motive for rape is often power.

MICHAEL ROZENES: I don't think it's got anything to do with a power base. I think he's just an animal, and why disguise it with this power base. He's just gone and done something he wanted to do without any regard to someone else's rights. The point I'm making to you is that they are both rapists, but on the question of penalty I can't accept that if you take those five cases that I've given you, they'll all end up with the same result. If that's to follow, then we don't need judges and we don't need courts. We can assume if someone is convicted of rape there will be a figure and everyone will get it. Why have a sentencing system?

LIBBY PRICE: And in case there was any doubting whether the rapist should receive a lesser sentence, Mr Rozenes went even further.

MICHAEL ROZENES: The point I'm making is not whether a particular sentence or a particular case is right or wrong; the point I'm making is in each of those cases the harm done to the victim and the nature of the victim is relevant to the question of sentencing. And if there's knowledge on the part of the accused as to the type of victim, that's also relevant on sentencing. Now you tell me that it's not, that they should all be the same. I think that's not correct.

LIBBY PRICE: When approached by the ABC to do an interview, Mr Rozenes declined, saying he regretted having made the statement. But his comments are sure to raise the ire of not just sex workers, but the judiciary, as it continues to battle the adverse publicity surrounding similarly controversial comments made recently by some of our most learned of Supreme Court Judges.

ELLEN FANNING: Libby Price reporting there from Melbourne.