A woman jailed for at least 14 years for the execution-style shooting of her grandfather has failed in her attempt to have her sentence reduced on the grounds that her transgender status made prison more onerous.
Ben Richard Clark has been known as Stephanie Elizabeth Clark since September last year, resulting in her being placed in protective custody in jail.
Clark sought leave to appeal against her conviction and sentence in the Court of Criminal Appeal. In a judgment handed down today, both applications were dismissed.
In August 2007, Clark was convicted and sentenced to a maximum 20 years’ jail after pleading guilty to the murder of her grandfather, Ernest Richard “Dick” Clark two and a half years earlier.
Her father Michael Rex Clark was also convicted of murder after a jury trial.
During the sentencing hearing, Clark said she shot her grandfather in the head at his Bexley home in anger after suffering physical, verbal and sexual abuse as a teenager.
The Crown alleged she was motivated by money, and committed the crime to enable her and her father to inherit their share of her grandfather’s estate.
The three appeal judges found the sentencing judge made no error in deciding the sentence and the sentence did not need to be redetermined.
Because the court was not resentencing Clark, the transgender issue would not be taken into account, as Clark became known as a woman long after she was originally sentenced.
The court heard evidence of how transgender inmates are managed in jail, including being placed on a non-association order for protection. As well as increasing isolation, protective custody reduces access to services, programs, employment and educational facilities, the court heard.
In appealing against her conviction, Clark claimed there had been a breakdown in communications between her and her legal team in deciding to enter a plea of guilty to murder.
Rather than pleading guilty to murder, she could have gone to trial seeking a verdict of manslaughter on the partial defence of provocation, she said.
Her legal team had advised her that provocation was unlikely to be successful and her allegations surrounding her grandfather’s abuse could be used to mitigate her sentence.
The appeal judges found no miscarriage of justice arose from her plea of guilty to murder. There was no realistic basis upon which provocation could be raised, they said.
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