Judge questions mercy in killer mum case

Akon Guode is being sentenced a third time for killing three of her children.
Akon Guode is being sentenced a third time for killing three of her children.

A Victorian judge has questioned where the mercy was in a 26-year prison sentence handed to a mother who killed three of her children.

Akon Guode drove into a lake in Melbourne's west five years ago, killing her 16-month-old son Bol and four-year-old twins Hanger and Madit.

She pleaded guilty to killing the children and the attempted murder of Alual, then five, who survived after being plucked from the water.

The year since Guode's original jail term - including a 20-year minimum - has been the subject of several appeals.

In a fresh sentencing hearing on Friday, Victoria's top prosecutor Kerri Judd QC on Friday told three judges that Guode might have been handed a much longer sentence had she not been shown mercy.

Justice Lex Lasry had specifically referred to the need for mercy in his original sentence.

Guode had a major depressive disorder that had disturbed her mind. She also had a grossly disadvantaged background and personal history, living in Sudan in a period of internal conflict and civil war.

"If (Justice Lasry) had not given significant weight to the mental health issues raised then one would expect that the sentence would be significantly higher than what it was," Ms Judd said.

But Justice David Beach appeared perplexed.

"I don't understand where the mercy is ... where's the mercy in a sentence of this duration," he questioned.

Guode's lawyer Paul Holdensen QC has urged the judges to consider a range of factors in re-sentencing her, including the impacts of COVID-19 in prison.

He said she was isolated as the only African woman in the prison.

The isolation is compounded by a coronavirus-related ban on visitors, a language barrier and cancellation of her church and bible study groups.

Isolation on isolation would have an exponential effect, he said.

Guode's latest re-sentencing was ordered by the High Court.

Justice Lasry's initial sentence, in which he described Guode's betrayal of her children's trust as "catastrophic" was overturned by the Victorian Court of Appeal.

Three judges said Guode's situation was "pitiable" and had Justice Lasry given adequate weight to her mental condition a more lenient sentence would have been imposed.

They re-sentenced her to 18 years' prison, to serve a minimum of 14 years.

But prosecutors appealed the sentence to the High Court, which overruled the previous appeal decision 3-2.

The case was sent back to Victoria's Supreme Court so Guode could be sentenced for a third time.

Their decision will be handed down at a later date.

Australian Associated Press