Before reading this Q & A section we suggest that you read the Human Rights policy.
The media deals with Craig by way of a sniper action. By this we mean that at random times a one-sided story will appear in the print media, and then rage for a few days via talk-back radio and disappear. Of course Craig does not have the opportunity to answer, and the public is left with impressions from a story that was driven into being by media to serve its own ends. Craig has no desire at all to engage with the news or infotainment media, but he is named and used by broadcast and print outlets of all types whether he seeks to be heard or not. It is our view that perhaps some members of the public would like to hear about Craig from another source. We asked Craig to respond to the following questions so we could better understand where his thinking is at. There is nothing in this Q & A page that is indecent, abusive, threatening or offensive and there is nothing that could be regarded as being distressing or traumatic by any person. But if you do not want to hear what Craig said to us in response to our questions then it is in your best interests to exit this site.
‘Am I trying to reinvent myself? Yes, of course I am! I do not want to remain the same person I was in the 1980s, and I would think that no-one, especially the people who were the victims of my crimes would want me to remain the same person either.’ Craig Minogue.
Q. What would you say to your victims if you were given the chance?
A. I understand the pain and suffering that I have caused. I am very sorry for the crimes of my past, and I regret those actions very much and wish that I had not done them. I have done wrong to people through my criminal actions, and it seems obvious to me that an apology and explanation are warranted and called for. I suspect that victims of crime would expect an apology, in fact I think they would feel entitled to receive one.
But, this is not a simple matter because the legal system and the prison system does not assist prisoners or victims in this regard. In fact, it can be a criminal offence under the Corrections Act for a prisoner to say sorry. If I don’t make an attempt to say sorry then I am a ‘heartless bastard who does not even have that common decency.’ But if I do make an attempt, then ‘how dare he presume to address any comments towards his victims.’ I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t.
Having decided that I do want to apologize, then there are questions in relation to whether I should mention my victims by name. If I don’t mention their names, then I have not come to terms with the personal reality of the crime for those people and their families, if I do mention them by name, then ‘how dare he torment the victims like that.’ I am back to being damned either way. Well I guess I am damned, so despite all this, I have and will say sorry for my actions.
I am sorry and I wish I did not do the things I did. I understand the consequences of the crimes of my past will never leave people, like the parents of Angela Taylor or Alex Tsakmakis, just as they will never leave me.
I understand the people who were the victims of my crimes in the 1980s maintain resentment towards me. Jean Amery wrote in his
At The Mind’s Limit’s that victims maintain resentment in order that the criminal does not escape moral reality of the crime, and that the social pressure to forgive and forget is immoral. I understand this and Jean Amery’s feelings, but I don’t need the resentment of my victims to remind me of the moral reality of murder and the wrongs I committed. And nor would I assume to ask my victims for their forgiveness, or for them to forget. What I do hope for is that those who were affected by my actions can find some peace in their lives, and that they don’t feel the need to maintain me as some type of spectre.
Q. Do you have any regrets?
A. Yes, of course I have regrets. My actions have affected the many people who were the victims of my crimes, especially the parents and families of Angela Taylor and Alex Tsakmakis. My victims also include my own family and friends who were secondary victims. I also regret the loss of a ordinary life that is being consumed by a 30 year prison sentence.
Q. Why did you commit the crimes you did?
A. Prison has given me the time to think about my life and how it all came to this. I had a good upbringing and family situation, but for varying reasons that are not uncommon, I was recalcitrant towards learning and authority, and as a young man I took a turn down a nihilistic and destructive path.I have traced the varying reasons as to why I think I ended up on the path I did, but ultimately it’s difficult to know because one’s perceptions change and different values are placed on different events after decades of insight from a prison cell. Despite all the influences on me as a young man, some of my own making and some not, despite that, the reality is that I made the decisions to do the things I did and there is no escaping my responsibility.
Q. You have not really answered the questions, so let us restate it: Why did you commit the crimes you did?
A. Why did I do the things I did? I wish I had one good reason, but there is not one. And I don’t know what is gained by me trotting out a detailed list of reasons why I think I ended up on the path I did – although I have touched upon what I think are the reasons in some of my other writings. But I don’t know if that really helps anyone; perhaps it just complicates things and any reasons I could offer could sound very much like excuses, and if the people who were the victims of my crimes thought I was making excuses, then they would, I think, be insulted by that. And I don’t want to make it worse for people. So rather than offering too many reasons or making excuses, I think it is just best if I accept responsibility and then talk about what I plan to do in the future, which is my main focus now.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. Thirty years is a very long time in prison, I was 23 when I came in and I will be 53 when I am eligible for release. I hope to be able to somehow pass on to others the value that I have found in education and learning during that time. What contribution I can make depends to a large extent upon others, and whether or not I am going to be given a chance to make a positive contribution.
Of course, there is an argument by some that I did not give my victims a chance, so I should not be given one in return; I think this is a false argument. It is false because the best way to teach people the wrongs of their actions is by setting a good example of how to treat others with respect, fairness, dignity and an equal opportunity; not to be treating them in kind, in the same bad way. People who say I should not be given a chance are saying “We will do wrong to you, like you did it to us so you know its wrong,” a moments thought reveals that this type of “do as I say and not as I do” nonsense does not even work with small children. I know and I admit that the actions of my past were wrong without having to be victimized in turn by my victims, the criminal justice system or a mob of vigilantes mustered on the front page of a tabloid newspaper. As a community, and I would like to be part of that, we don’t need any more victimisation of one group by another, there is too much of that already. What I think we do need is for people to be given a chance, and even a second and third chance. The only way that people can demonstrate that they have changed and understood the wrongs of their past is if they are given a chance to live a law-abiding and productive life. If people are not given a chance then all that is being proved is a self-fulfilling prophecy that costs everyone dearly.The sentence of imprisonment is my punishment and I have accepted it and I am serving it; and I have admitted my guilt and expressed my remorse. I am also meeting my obligations to rehabilitate myself and to prepare myself in such a way so as to lesson the risk of re-offending upon release.
Q. How are you going to repay the community for the crimes you committed?
A. In legal terms, the criminal justice system levied a tariff against me of a very long sentence, let me say it again, I was arrested at 23 and I will be eligible for release at 53, this is my debt to the community – and it is a big one, and I am paying it.
Q. But specifically, how do you repay the community?
A. Firstly by accepting the sentence, secondly by admitting my guilt and saying I am sorry, and thirdly by making an effort to rehabilitate myself, and fourthly by not reoffending upon my release. That is all I can do, and to ask anything more of me is asking the impossible, and it would be asking what has never been part of the justice system.
Q. You say that you accept the sentence, when did you accept it?
A. I dealt with the criminal cases against me in the Courts from May 1986 to December 1992 with my last appeal in the High Court. But then in July 1997 the lead forensic investigator who was instrumental in convicting me was found to have submitted fraudulent reports and to have given false and misleading evidence in Court. This man was the leading forensic scientist in the country, but in late 1997 the Victorian Forensic Science Centre said that it would no longer guarantee any of the work of its then former Deputy Director. As this man’s evidence was instrumental in convicting me, I decided to look at a fresh evidence appeal to challenge my conviction and sentence. I obtained all of the documentary evidence in my case, but my efforts to prepare a fresh evidence appeal were deliberately frustrated by the staff and management at Barwon Prison and I sought redress in relation to that from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. This situation then turned into the human rights test cases that I litigated in the Federal Court and High Court between 1998 – 2000.
When I returned to the documents of the bombing and murder conviction in 1997 with the idea of a fresh evidence appeal, I found that as I read through the old case files and Court documents, a picture emerged that was not as rosy as the one that had grown in my mind in the decade up to that point. Put simply I really did not like what I saw about myself in these documents. I then became deliberately distracted with the human rights test cases and I also started university study in 1998. Towards the end of 1999 I knew that I had to make a decision about whether or not to continue with a fresh evidence appeal. The reality was that in 1997, not long after revisiting the facts and circumstances of my past as they were recorded in the Court papers, I knew that I had to move on from the person I was in the past and do what I needed to do in order to act in a more responsible way and stop fighting the conviction, but it took some time for me to admit that to myself, and even longer to admit that to others. So I abandoned the thought of an appeal and decided to accept the sentence and to try and work towards rehabilitating myself and making the second half of my life meaningful.
Q. Why did it take you so long to admit it to yourself and to others?
A. This is a difficult question. Of course I did not, and I still do not like being in prison. But most of all I think I would have to say that I was ashamed of what I had done. Ashamed that I had done such terrible things and that I did not have a good reason for my actions; I was just stupid, bad and irresponsible and I did not want to admit that for a long time. Think of the worst thing you have ever done, is it easy to admit?
Q. What are your thoughts on prison, crime and punishment?
A. The measure of the prison system is the recidivism rate, and in the time I have been in prison in Victoria, in percentage terms, it has dropped from a high of 90% to under 60%. Harsh punishment systems have been proven not to work for hundreds of years, and in fact they are known to be counter productive. Father Brosnan, the longest serving prison chaplain in Victoria’s history, said of the torturous regime in Pentridge’s ‘H’ Division, that it turned bicycle thieves into murderers. Father Brosnan was right, and such an outcome of harsh punishment regimes only endangers the community further. But such regimes are returning after pressure from interest groups, and thus the recidivism rate is rising. It is easy to understand fact, the worse you treat people, the worse they become and the more violent their crimes are when released, and that is in no-one’s interests. Harsh punishment systems deliver short term emotional benefit for those calling for them, but they create more victims of crime in the long term. A focus on rehabilitative programs, education and reintegrating and including people in the lawful life of the community as equals is the only sensible way forward. As prison conditions have improved, and as there has been a move towards rehabilitative and educational programs and reintegrating and including people in the life of the community, the re-offending rate has dropped and this means less crime and less victims. So it is in no person’s interests that these trends should be reversed in general, or in individual cases, but the reverse gear is being applied as educational programes are being cut back.Of course, there are people inside the prison system, both management, staff and prisoners, and people in the community, who do not want to think about rehabilitative programs, education, and reintegrating and eventually including those who have committed offences back into the life of the wider community. But the only thing that a harsh punishment regime instills in the community is a devalued respect for human values and dignity. 250 years ago people convicted of criminal offences were regularly tortured to death in public spectacles, but that did not stop crime, in fact it often caused riots and more crime. I am told the Australian Census Bureau web site reports the fact that the homocide rate in Australia in 2001 was exactly the same as it was in 1901. Of course, this fact is no consolation at all to those who have lost loved ones to violent crime, but it does put the “crime is out of control” headlines of the gutter press in factual perspective that is often lacking in their publications.As a community we need to address the causes of crime, not the aftermath. It would be better for us all if crime did not happen in the first place rather than directing all of our attention on what to do to punish the offender after the crime has occurred. Every professional person working in the criminal justice field knows the causes of crime, and these are almost never associated with medieval notions of the offender being inherently evil and the need for them to be cleansed of their sins by fire at the stake.
Q. Your answers sound very theoretical or even political, why is that?
A. Firstly, I have to write the answers to your questions and secondly, I have been locked in a prison cell on my own every night since May 1986, and I have spent many years in isolation and punishment units on my own. Writing answers to questions, and spending all of that time with my own thoughts and company provides plenty of time to think and consider my situation – and I think this has been a good thing for me. I have lived my life through books and academic learning as that is the only life that my imprisonment has allowed me. By necessity I have had to intellectualise my emotional development; Iris Murdoch has written that ‘the most essential and fundamental aspect of culture is the study of literature, since this is an education in how to picture and understand human situations’ and it is in this way that I have matured.* So it is natural that my answers are somewhat theoretical sounding and drawn on what I have learnt academically.
* Iris Murdoch, ‘ The Idea of Perfection’ inThe Sovereignty of Good, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1970, p.34.