News & Current Affairs

By Satomi Hamon


‘The Hoddle Street Killer’ will remain behind bars, High Court decides

Julian Knight, AKA ‘The Hoddle Street Killer’ shot dead seven people and injured 19 during a shooting spree in Clifton Hill, Victoria in August 1987.

Knight was sentenced to life in prison, with a 27-year non-parole period, for his crimes.

Just before the period expired in 2014, the Victorian Government introduced laws which prevented Knight from seeking parole unless he was seriously incapacitated or in imminent danger of dying.

Knight challenged these laws, arguing they interfered with the independence of Victoria’s Supreme Court which imposed the initial non-parole period.

Before the decision was handed down today, there was much discussion as to how the High Court would handle this issue.

In 1994 the High Court held that a NSW law, which allowed the Supreme Court to order Gregory Kable – who was then due to be released – remain in prison, was unconstitutional. It was held to offend the ”separation of powers” doctrine, which requires the judiciary to work separately from the executive and Parliament.

However, the bill naming Knight involves parole, which is an executive function, rather than the judicial function of imprisonment (as in Kable’s case).

The High Court today found the laws keeping Knight in jail did not interfere with the sentence imposed by Victoria’s Supreme Court, as the decision on parole fell outside that Court’s powers.

It was held that the sentences of imprisonment for life imposed by Victoria’s Supreme Court provided the authority for the imprisonment of Mr Knight during the term of his natural life.

“By making it more difficult for Mr Knight to obtain a parole order after the expiration of the minimum term, [the new law] does nothing to contradict the minimum term that was fixed” the High Court found.

When the laws were introduced in 2014, Victoria’s then premier Denis Napthine said Knight “deserved to rot in jail”.

“This is a special situation for Julian Knight,” he said.

“Julian Knight is our worst mass murderer. (He was) convicted of seven murders and has a history of further inappropriate behaviour and disrespect for our fellow man whilst in jail.”