The Background of the Leonard Warwick Case Explained
The Family Court of Australia attacks were a series of shootings and bombings in NSW from 1980 to 1985 by Leonard Warwick. He targeted at judges, and other people, associated with the Family Court of Australia.
The attacks are considered to have begun on 22 February 1980, when Stephen Blanchard was shot dead in his home. His body was found six days later on the opposite side of Sydney in Cowan Creek on the Hawkesbury River.
On 23 June 1980, Family Court Judge David Opas was shot outside his home, dying later that night due to his injuries.
On 6 March 1984, Judge Richard Gee, who had taken on Opas’ cases after his death, was injured by a bomb at his Belrose home.
On 14 April 1984, the Family Court building in Parramatta was bombed, without any casualties.
On 4 July 1984 Pearl Watson, the wife of Family Court Judge Ray Watson, became a fatality when she opened the door of their unit in Greenwich, triggering an improvised explosive device on the doorstep. It is, however, believed that Judge Watson was the target of the attack. Like Richard Gee, Watson had taken on some Family Court cases from his predecessor after Gee had been injured in the March 1984 bombing.
Following this, on 21 July 1985 Graham Wykes, a Jehovah’s Witness minister was killed, and another 13 people injured, when the Casula Kingdom Hall was bombed.
In July 2015, Leonard Warwick charged with multiple offences, including four counts of murder, one of attempted murder, and 13 counts of burning or maiming with an explosive substance.
In light of the above, in July 2020 Leonard Warwick (also known as the ‘Family Court Bomber’) was convicted of the following:
- Three counts of murder contrary to s18(1)(a) of the Crimes Act 1900 (“the Crimes Act”);
- Two counts of exploding an explosive device which destroys or damages a building with intent to murder a named individual contrary to s28 of the Crimes Act;
- One count of placing an explosive substance into a vehicle with intent to commit murder contrary to s30 of the Crimes Act;
- One count of maliciously placing an explosive substance near a building with intent to damage that building contrary to s204 of the Crimes Act; and
- Thirteen counts of maliciously, by an explosion, causing grievous bodily harm to named individuals contrary to s46 of the Crimes Act.
On 3 September 2020, he was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
The Sentencing Remarks of Leonard Warwick Explained
In determining an appropriate sentence, the facts of each offence needed to be considered for there to be a determination of the objective seriousness of the criminality of Mr Warwick. For all of the counts before the court, Justice Garling considered that they were at the highest level of objective seriousness and that the level of Mr Warwick’s culpability, extreme.
In describing the nature of the offending, Justice Garling remarked that “the offences involving the Family Court of Australia, its Judges and a practitioner demonstrated a series of calculated attacks on the Family Court.” He further commented that “[the Family Court] is a hallmark of Australian democracy and the peaceful co-existence which we all enjoy as an enlightened society that there is an independent, strong and dedicated judiciary.” This offending is, therefore “completely antithetical to the very foundations of government in Australia.”
Evidence was also placed before the court, through Victim Impact Statement, of the impact which Mr Warwick’s conduct had on the victims themselves and also on the families of the three murder victims. Unlike other matters, because the events occurred between 35 and 40 years before the conviction, each of the victims has been able to tell the Court of the long term consequences of the crimes upon them.
Mr Warwick is entitled, as part of his defence, to place any material before the Court relating to his subjective circumstances. This may relate to their background, their current situation and any which may have been relevant to the conduct in which an offender has engaged. Mr Warwick instructed his lawyers not to make any submissions to the Court on the issue of what sentence was appropriate to be imposed or any submissions on his subjective circumstances. Accordingly, little weight could be given to the personal circumstances of Mr Warwick in the evaluation of the factors relevant to sentencing.
The length of the sentence imposed on Leonard Warwick for each count
For each of the counts before the court, the following sentences were imposed:
- Three counts of murder: life imprisonment without parole.
- Two counts of exploding an explosive device which destroys or damages a building with intent to murder: 25 years imprisonment
- One count of placing an explosive substance into a vehicle with intent to commit murder: 15 years imprisonment.
- One count of maliciously placing an explosive substance near a building with intent to damage that building: 10 years imprisonment
- Thirteen counts of maliciously, by an explosion, causing grievous bodily harm: 15 years imprisonment.
A copy of the judgment, in full, can be found here.
Does life mean life?
Justice Garling, in sentencing, remarked that the maximum penalty would be applicable. Under s19A of the Crimes Act 1900, the maximum sentence for the crime of murder is ‘the term of the person’s natural life’. Accordingly, unless there is a successful appeal against either the conviction or sentence imposed, Mr Warwick will spend the remained of his life in prison.
If you or someone you know needs advice or representation for an alleged criminal offence, contact the team at Hamilton Janke Lawyer 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 4038 1666.