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Sara Connor sentence: Why Schappelle Corby got longer

Australian national Sara Connor walks to a courtroom for her trial in Bali, Indonesia
Australian national Sara Connor walks to a courtroom for her trial in Bali, Indonesia Firdia Lisnawati / AP Photo

FOUR years for killing a cop versus 20 years for smuggling a bag of weed.

In the wake of the four year sentence handed to Byron Bay mother-of-two Sara Connor for the part she played in killing Indonesian police officer Wayan Sudarsa on a Bali beach last year, many Australians have been left scratching their heads.

After all, it was the same country where, in 2005, Gold Coast beautician Schapelle Corby was sentenced to 20 years in Bali's notorious Kerobokan prison for attempting to smuggle 4.2kg of marijuana into Indonesia in her boogie board bag.

She has always protested her innocence.

It is also the country whose president, Joko Widodo, would not be swayed by relentless international pressure to call off the executions of two confessed Australian drug smugglers, Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran, in 2015.

Ms Connor's British DJ boyfriend David Taylor was sentenced to six years in jail for the fatal bashing of Mr Sudarsa, a 35-year veteran of the Indonesian police force, whose body was found on Legian beach on August 7, 2016.

Mr Taylor confessed to bashing the police officer, but argued he did so in self-defence.

Ms Connor confessed to attempting to intervene in the fight, and to destroying Mr Sudarsa's identification and burning the bloodstained clothes belonging to her and her boyfriend in the hours after the attack.

So why were the sentences so light in comparison to Corby's and those of the executed Chan and Sukamaran?

Tim Lindsey, the director of Melbourne Law School's Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society, said there were a number of factors.

But he confessed that even he was surprised by the leniency of the sentences handed to the Byron Bay couple.

"I think in this case, I was surprised that both offenders only received six and four years respectively," he said.

"Prosecutors wanted eight, which I would have thought they would be given, since the maximum sentence if 12 years.

 Schapelle Corby at the holding cells at the Denpasar District Court.
Schapelle Corby at the holding cells at the Denpasar District Court. MICK TSIKAS

"It's a serious manslaughter in pretty repulsive circumstances.

"Can you imagine if a policeman on Bondi Beach was killed in a drunken rage by an international tourist?

"I think here, Indonesia has acted in a restrained fashion."

Prof Lindsey said the major factor influencing the sentence was that the couple were not charged with murder.

Murder, particularly of the mass or premeditated varieties, attracts sentences at the top-end of Indonesia's sentencing scale, as it does in most countries.

However, the crime Ms Connor and Mr Taylor pleaded guilty to, fatal group assault, was regarded much less severe than those that attract death penalty or lengthy sentences.

Crimes that attract those severe sentences also include corruption, terrorism and drug trafficking offences, Prof Lindsey said.

Australian Sara Connor seen inside holding cell before her trial at Denpasar Court in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Her British boyfriend David Taylor will testify at Sara Connor trial regarding the murdering of a local police officer Wayan Sudarsa, whose bloodied body was discovered on Kuta Beach on August 17. (AAP Image/Johannes Christo)
Australian Sara Connor seen inside holding cell before her trial at Denpasar Court in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Her British boyfriend David Taylor will testify at Sara Connor trial regarding the murdering of a local police officer Wayan Sudarsa, whose bloodied body was discovered on Kuta Beach on August 17. (AAP Image/Johannes Christo) JOHANNES P. CHRISTO

The fact that drug crime is regarded as so serious in Indonesia, and thus cost Chan and Sukamaran their lives and Corby nine years of her liberty, can all be attributed to the west, he said.

"Indonesia is hardly unique in that most South East Asian countries consider drugs offences to be very serious, in the highest category," he said.

"Australia now considers them in a different category, not at that same sort of level of mass murder, as most of the countries in our region do.

"It's a set of values and ideas that has come out of the 'War on Drugs', which was initiated in the 70s by the west, which also pushed these countries to establish.

"Now, we're not keen on that approach but it still gets a lot of traction in Asia.

"We don't want to be too amazed they are following the policies the west pushed.

"We have to accept, like it or not, serious drug offences are considered in the highest class of offence in Indonesia."

It is an approach that formed a key tenet of Joko Widodo's election victory.

On the ground in Indonesia, there is widespread support for the president's zero tolerance approach to drug dealers, Prof Lindsey said, and, in particular, a deeply held belief that foreigners are largely responsible for the scourge.

"There are people who are critics of (Widodo's) approach, including at very high levels, but also, there is broad popular support, and application for the death penalty and a widely held view their drug problem is caused by foreigners," he said.

epa05516083 Australian national Sara Connor (C) participates in the reconstruction of the death of a police officer at Kuta beach in Bali, Indonesia, 31 August 2016. Australian Sara Connor and British national David Taylor, were arrested by Bali police, and are accused of murdering a local policeman on Kuta Beach. The body of police officer Wayan Sudarsa was found with deep wounds to his head and neck on Kuta beach on 17 August 2016. EPA/MADE NAGI
epa05516083 Australian national Sara Connor (C) participates in the reconstruction of the death of a police officer at Kuta beach in Bali, Indonesia, 31 August 2016. Australian Sara Connor and British national David Taylor, were arrested by Bali police, and are accused of murdering a local policeman on Kuta Beach. The body of police officer Wayan Sudarsa was found with deep wounds to his head and neck on Kuta beach on 17 August 2016. EPA/MADE NAGI MADE NAGI

"Foreigners, in their view, are the cause and even the Supreme Court have said in at least one sentencing decision, that being a foreigner is an aggravating circumstance that has been taken into account when determining a sentence."

As for Ms Connor and Mr Taylor, Prof Lindsey said they would be very unwise to appeal their sentences.

The pair has a week to lodge an appeal, as do prosecutors, a move which would, most likely, result in an increase, Prof Lindsey said.

Ms Connor is reportedly still considering whether to lodge an appeal.

"I think she would be extremely ill-advised to appeal," Prof Lindsey said.

"She's killed a cop, she should do her time.

"She would be making a big mistake to appeal. I think it would be very unlikely she would walk away.

"The prosecutors may appeal, since they got half of what they asked for, and it's very, very likely to result in a more severe sentence."

epa05516070 Australian national Sara Connor participates in the reconstruction of the death of a police officer at Kuta beach in Bali, Indonesia, 31 August 2016. Australian Sara Connor and British national David Taylor, were arrested by Bali police, and are accused of murdering a local policeman on Kuta Beach. The body of police officer Wayan Sudarsa was found with deep wounds to his head and neck on Kuta beach on 17 August 2016. EPA/MADE NAGI
epa05516070 Australian national Sara Connor participates in the reconstruction of the death of a police officer at Kuta beach in Bali, Indonesia, 31 August 2016. Australian Sara Connor and British national David Taylor, were arrested by Bali police, and are accused of murdering a local policeman on Kuta Beach. The body of police officer Wayan Sudarsa was found with deep wounds to his head and neck on Kuta beach on 17 August 2016. EPA/MADE NAGI MADE NAGI

As for the apparent dangers for tourists on the hugely popular holiday isle of Bali, Prof Lindsey said visitors should not be deterred.

"People seem to think Bali is this quite dangerous place but they really need to keep it in perspective," he said.

"1.2 million Australians go to Bali every year and the numbers who get caught up are not that big.

"Go to Bali and have a great holiday. Just leave the drugs alone."

 

Topics:  editors picks sara connor schapelle corby sentence

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