Criminal and Civil

1) Date of article and name of newspaper

‘Woman jailed for church stabbings’ is found in ‘The Herald Sun Newspaper’ on the 29th of January 2004.

2) Outline facts of case

· Susan Sewell is a 46 year old homeless woman who occasionally sleeps on the steps of the Collins Street Baptist Church

· On the night of August 27th 2002, a Musica Viva chamber music concert was being setup and Susan got asked to move from the church steps

· She did as the workers asked and left the church steps without hesitation

· About 40 minutes later, she entered the church and said “hello,” as concert singers and band members came

· After saying hello, she stabbed a staff member in the abdomen the approached a ticket seller and stabbed her in the back

· Sewell was then confronted by Mr. Burch, host of ABC 774’s Sunday show, who asked her to drop the knife, twice

· Mr. Burch was then stabbed by Sewell in the lower abdomen

· Bystanders then subdued her as police were contacted

· Sewell has no previous criminal or psychiatric history and said she had no memory of the stabbings

· A court-ordered psychiatric report was unable to establish Sewell’s background or to diagnose a specific mental illness.

3) Classify in detail the incident as either criminal or civil

It is clear that the incident in this article is criminal for several reasons. Firstly, there are a number of terms, such as pleaded guilty and jailed which are only used in criminal cases. Pleading guilty is a term used in criminal cases and is a plea given by the accused, who admits to the alleged offences, as opposed to a civil case, where a person is found liable or not liable. Jailed is also a term used in criminal cases and at times civil cases. However jailed terms in criminal cases are usually more severe, such as the incident in this article, with the jail term of two years as opposed to civil jail terms which usually consist of several months in jail with community based services. In this case, the standards of behaviour were not met, as three people were injured seriously and other bystanders were threatened. Due to this incident, it is the States responsibility to ensure that the standards of behaviour are met and that the criminal is punished for their wrong actions. The State is also responsible for protecting the society as a whole. Before her sentence, the court ordered psychiatric treatment but were unable to diagnose any mental illness. However, the accused pleaded guilty as the state imposed a penalty of 42 months.

4) List and define any legal terms

County court – An intermediate court situated between the Magistrates’ and

Supreme courts. It has both criminal and civil jurisdiction and

hears appeals.

Pleading guilty – A plea given by the accused in a criminal case admitting to the

alleged offence.

Jailed – A penalty usually given in criminal cases and at times civil. It is when

you serve time behind bars as your freedom is taken away.

Recklessly causing serious injury – Causing serious injury in a manner showing

indifference to the consequences.

Sentence – The sanction of a term of imprisonment handed down by a criminal


5) Describe the outcome and its purpose. What do you think? Why?

The outcome of this criminal case was a penalty of at least two years in jail for three counts of recklessly causing serious injury. There are several purposes for imposing criminal punishment such as rehabilitation, deterrence, retribution and protection. Rehabilitation, also known as reform is one of the most important out of the four. It aims to allow individuals to change their inappropriate behaviour, so that he or she may become a valuable member of society. An example of this is drug and alcohol programs which target offenders who require specialised treatment to prevent further criminal conduct. An increasingly crucial aspect is education as many prisoners have poor literacy skills. Deterrence has two effects when imposing a criminal punishment. Firstly, it deters others in society from committing that particular offence and secondly, to discourage the offender from continuing with a life of crime. Usually a severe punishment would give a stronger deterrence to