A one-year non-parole sentence for a man who twice raped a sex worker at knife point was “manifestly inadequate”, the Crown has argued on appeal.
But his defence lawyers said the offences were “stale” and the sentence reflected the constructive, law-abiding life he had lived since committing the crimes in 1990.
Robert John Hall was 32 when he called a 23-year-old escort worker to his motel room in Kiama on the NSW south coast. There he taped bandages over her eyes and sexually assaulted her twice while holding a large knife near her body.
“If you do that again I’ll f—ing kill you,” he warned when she tried to turn around.
Police closed the investigation the same year but in 2007 Hall submitted to a DNA swab after he drove off from a Queensland service station without paying for petrol.
The DNA sample linked him to one taken from the woman at Wollongong Hospital and stored on a national police database, leading to a renewed investigation.
After a jury found him guilty last year, he was sentenced in September to a five-year head sentence with a minimum of one year in jail.
District Court Judge Peter Whitford said the case was “highly exceptional”: since the offending Hall had shown “exemplary devotion to his family”, integrity in business and a willingness to volunteer.
“Mr Hall has already established that he can rehabilitate himself, and indeed has,” Judge Whitford found.
“He has become a fully participating, productive member of society.”
Hall, 59, sat slumped in a chair in prison on Tuesday, appearing via video link before the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal as the Crown argued his sentence was far too lenient.
“Both the non-parole term and the head sentence are manifestly inadequate,” a barrister, who did not wish to be named, said.
The Crown said while Judge Whitford had found Hall committed “objectively quite terrible criminal conduct”, other remarks in his judgment showed he had not treated the crimes seriously enough. For example, Judge Whitford had said the sexual assaults took place over a “relatively short” period of time, about 15 to 30 minutes.
The Crown also said Hall, who had claimed the sex was consensual, “has not in any way acknowledged his guilt” and that his sentence failed to reflect his lack of remorse.
But Hall’s barrister, Richard Wilson, said his client should not face a longer prison term, partly because of the “staleness” of the offences committed in 1990.
“It’s so far in the past of the offender that his situation is entirely different,” Mr Wilson said, pointing to Hall’s family ties, age and lack of reoffending.
“His plea of not guilty, and therefore his lack of remorse, say nothing about his prospects of rehabilitation,” Mr Wilson said.
He told the judges that Hall’s giving, positive behaviour “eclipsed” the lack of contrition and that there was less need to deter others from criminal activity where the crimes dated back decades.
Justices Carolyn Simpson, Robert Allan Hulme and Helen Wilson retired to consider their decision. Hall would be first eligible for release next August.