Fight to fix gaps in parole in the name of Karen Chetcuti Verbunt

CAMPAIGNING FOR KAREN: Ovens Valley MLA Tim McCurdy, Clary Verbunt and Carol Roadknight.
CAMPAIGNING FOR KAREN: Ovens Valley MLA Tim McCurdy, Clary Verbunt and Carol Roadknight.

Michael Cardamone was a convicted rapist, out on parole and living in Whorouly where there was no police station and his parole officer was 33 kilometres away in Wangaratta.

He did not have constant supervision back in January 2016 when he murdered neighbour Karen Chetcuti Verbunt, and her family and friends want to know why.

Opposition leader Matthew Guy took their questions to Victorian Parliament this week, as Karen’s mother Clary Verbunt and friend Carol Roadknight traveled to Melbourne to watch from the public gallery.

“A key consideration in determining whether to grant parole is the availability of suitable accommodation that enables authorities to closely monitor the behaviour of the offender,” he said. 

“Given we know that Cardamone had already breached parole twice for drug and child pornography offences, how often was he required to report to his parole supervisor and how many other times did he fail to comply with his parole conditions?”

NEED FOR CHANGE: Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has pushed for more changes to parole law.

NEED FOR CHANGE: Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has pushed for more changes to parole law.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the government was making “significant reform” to reduce the number of serious offences committed by those on parole, but did not have the specifics of the Cardamone case on hand.

The Corrections department told The Border Mail supervision and requirements for offenders who obtain parole had improved by providing additional oversight for serious violent and sex offenders.

“That does not for a moment though ease the pain and the grief of those who have been victims of crime committed by parolees,” Mr Andrews said.

“The grief and the anguish of this family are all too real and serious, and I will follow up and write to them if there is anything further I can do.”

The questions sparked an argument between Liberal and Labor MPs when Mr Andrews referenced Mr Guy’s dinner with alleged Mafia boss Tony Madafferi.

“I wonder whether when the Leader of the Opposition is speaking to victims of crime he lets them know who he dines with, who he takes money from,” he said.

Mr Guy’s colleagues leaped to his defence, calling the premier’s comments “disgraceful” when Ms Chetcuti’s loved ones were present.

OFFERING SUPPORT: Premier Daniel Andrews said his sympathies were with the family of Karen Chetcuti Verbunt.

OFFERING SUPPORT: Premier Daniel Andrews said his sympathies were with the family of Karen Chetcuti Verbunt.

Guy was ‘pretending to care’: Andrews

Questions have been raised as to why Opposition Leader Matthew Guy chose to fight for the right of victims like Karen Chetcuti Verbunt in the same week he was under fire for associating with the mafia.

The Labor Party has insinuated his questions in Parliament this week were a tactic to distract attention away from criticism of the well-publicised lobster dinner with alleged Mafia boss Tony Madafferi.

Premier Daniel Andrews told Mr Guy he had forfeited his right to lecture him on community safety.

“You pretend to care about victims when you take money from the people who make them victims,” he said.

“But I have not risen to point out the galloping hypocrisy of the Leader of the Opposition and the fraudulent way in which he pretends to support victims.”

Mr Andrews’ office told The Border Mail the premier stood by his comments.

Deputy Premier James Merlino stood by his leader, saying the issue should be raised because “organised crime are the instigators of victims of crime”.

Carol Roadknight, a friend of Ms Chetcuti Verbunt who was in Parliament to campaign for parole reform, said it was the Labor politicians who acted disrespectfully.

“Andrews never even turned his chair once to acknowledge Karen's friends and family sitting in the public gallery, he was too busy making jokes and laughing with his team,” she said.

“I am disgusted with his and his government’s behaviour today and I also asked him for an apology in Karen's name.”

Ms Roadknight said Mr Andrews did acknowledge her emails and has now challenged him to meet with her after Cardamone is sentenced in court on August 25, giving him a deadline of September 2.