Attorney General must intervene and provide legal funding for family of murder victim Deon Hewitt: SA-BEST
SA-BEST today called on the Attorney General to reverse a decision by the state’s top advocate for victims of crime not to provide legal funding for the family of murder victim, Deon Hewitt.
SA-BEST MLC, Frank Pangallo, said it was obscene nearly $200 million of victims of crime money was sitting in government coffers yet victims of horrific crimes were being forced to go “cup in hand” to get funds so they can be legally represented in court – and then have their requests declined!
Mr Hewitt’s distraught family is preparing to front the Supreme Court next month to request drug-using psychopathic murderer, Steven Patrick Berg – who killed the grandfather, 74, in 2018 and who is being held in a secure mental health facility - not receive extended freedom “for activities” with reduced supervision.
They reached out to Frank after the Victims’ Rights Commissioner, Ms Bronwyn Killmier, declined their request for funding for a lawyer to represent them.
“There’s an obscene pile of victims of crime money - nearly $200 million sitting in an account - yet it’s outrageous that victims of horrific crimes are having to go cup in hand to get anything so they can be heard in court,” Frank said.
“Steven Berg committed a sickening and shocking crime in murdering an innocent and much loved grandfather, Deon Hewitt, in the family home he shared with his adoring wife,” he said.
“Berg blamed his unprovoked it on drug use and mental illness and managed to avoid a long jail term - but now wants the community to think he’s well enough to be trusted to wander through the very same community where the victim’s still grieving and distressed family lives- with only one guard supervising him for 10 hours over two days.
“I wouldn’t trust him with three guards let alone one.
“It’s unjust and another slap in the face for the family of victims with the Victims of Crime Commissioner rejecting legal funding for the Hewitt’s when the change of conditions application is heard next month. They didn’t get much of hearing last time.
“The family deserves to be heard in open court, and not only through a victim’s impact statement.
Berg, 38, killed Mr Hewitt, in his own home in May 2018 – the vicious attack witnessed by his wife, Patricia.
The family has since sold the family home.
Berg was found not guilty of murder by reason of mental incompetence and sentenced to a limiting term of life.
Last month, his lawyers requested his five hours of day leave, once per week, be expanded to 10 hours over two days.
They also asked his supervision be reduced from two minders to one, saying more time and freedom was needed “for activities”.
Frank said: “Berg’s taxpayer-funded lawyers claim three hours of freedom isn’t enough time for his ‘activities’ - whatever they might be.
“Well, what about Mr Hewitt’s family? They’ve lost forever their time with him for activities,” he said.
“I understand there needs to be a rehabilitation process, but too often through the passage of time from the crime, we see the system take a softer approach with offenders to the detriment of victims who will never recover from losing their loved ones.
“The Attorney General must intervene and instruct Commissioner Killmier to rethink her decision on the modest funding that would be needed. She needs to be seen representing the interests of victims of crime like the family of Deon Hewitt.”