The Sentence and Appeal
Bugmy was sentenced to six years and three months with a non-parole period of over four years. The sentencing court had taken into account his social disadvantage, mental illness and need for substance abuse rehabilitation. The sentence was increased by the NSW Criminal Court of Appeal on the basis that too much emphasis had been placed on these factors given the serious nature of the offences.
The majority of the High Court allowed the appeal. While the High Court did not find that the appellant’s Aboriginality was relevant, nor the high rates of Indigenous incarceration, the court found that the disadvantaged background of an Aboriginal offender is relevant, in the same way that a non-Indigenous offender’s background is relevant. In other words, social and economic disadvantage is not particular to Aboriginal people, but it is relevant to a person’s experience and culpability. The High Court upheld that the “effects of profound deprivation do not diminish over time” and that they are to be given “full weight” in sentencing.
The experience of growing up in an environment surrounded by alcohol abuse and violence may leave its mark on a person throughout life. Among other things, a background of that kind may compromise the person's capacity to mature and to learn from experience. It is a feature of the person's make-up and remains relevant to the determination of the appropriate sentence, notwithstanding that the person has a long history of offending.