High Court rules on indigenous sentences

The High Court says the same sentencing principles should apply in all cases whether the offender is of Aboriginal background or not.

The High Court has dismissed an appeal from an indigenous man who sought to have an extended jail sentence overturned on the grounds it hadn't taken into account his disadvantaged background as an Aboriginal person.

West Australian man Ernest Munda had pleaded guilty to the 2010 manslaughter of his partner.

The pair had been drinking at a pub and he had smoked cannabis before he assaulted her at home, punching her and repeatedly ramming her head into a wall.

The next morning, they had sex and Munda left the house briefly.

When he returned his partner wasn't breathing and she was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

He was initially sentenced to more than five years' jail but WA prosecutors appealed the sentence as too lenient.

The WA Court of Appeal re-sentenced Munda to almost eight years in jail.

Munda appealed the decision in the High Court, with his lawyers arguing the appeal court had failed to giver proper regard to his ancestry and personal circumstances.

Submissions outlined Munda's history living in indigenous communities and his struggles with alcohol abuse since the age of 16.

But a majority of the High Court judges on Wednesday upheld the WA court's findings the original sentence was "manifestly inadequate".

"While it was relevant to take into consideration an offender's circumstances of severe social disadvantage, the High Court held that the same sentencing principles must be applied in every case irrespective of an offender's identity or ... membership of an ethnic or other group," the court said in a statement.

The High Court made the same statement about sentencing principles in its ruling on another case, that of NSW man William David Bugmy.

But it upheld Bugmy's appeal of an increased sentence, finding the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal had not addressed the question of whether the original sentence was manifestly inadequate.

Bugmy was initially sentenced to a non-parole period of four years in jail for assaulting a prison officer.

The prosecution appealed this and he was re-sentenced to a non-parole period of five years. It was this extended sentence Bugmy appealed in the High Court.

2 min read
Published 2 October 2013 at 11:27am
Source: AAP