Director’s appeal leads to longer terrorism sentence
Name: Ali Khalif Shire Ali
Date of Judgment: 18 December2020
Court (e.g. District Court of NSW; Court of Appeal – Victoria): Court of Appeal – Victoria
Partner Agency: Australian Federal Police
Summary of charges:
Mr Ali Khalif Shire Ali pleaded guilty to one count of doing acts in preparation for, or planning a terrorist act, contrary to s101.6 of the Criminal Code (Cth). This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
The Victorian Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT) arrested Mr Ali on 27 November 2017. Following a contested committal hearing in June 2018, Mr Ali was committed to stand trial in the Supreme Court of Victoria. On 15 May 2019, after several weeks of pre-trial argument, Mr Ali entered a guilty plea to the acts in preparation charge.
A plea hearing took place before the Victorian Supreme Court on 28 and 29 November 2019 and, on 21 May 2020, Mr Ali was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment with a non-parole period of seven and a half years.
On 18 June 2020, the Crown filed an appeal against the adequacy of this sentence. That appeal was heard in the Victorian Court of Appeal on 26 October 2020. On 18 December 2020, the Court of Appeal upheld the Crown appeal against sentence and re-sentenced Mr Ali to 16 years of imprisonment with a non-parole period of 12 years.
Mr Ali planned a terrorist attack at Federation Square in Melbourne’s CBD on New Year’s Eve 2017. Mr Ali selected this location to maximise casualties. He planned to kill civilians by repeatedly shooting into the crowd moments before midnight using a rapid-fire assault rifle before taking hostages in a neighbouring bar and making one of the hostages hold the Islamic State flag up to a window.
Mr Ali adhered to the extremist ideology espoused by international terrorist organisation Islamic State. He was motivated to carry out the attack in pursuit of a religious and ideological cause. He planned this attack to intimidate the public and motivate other Muslims to rise up against the Australian government and its perceived complicity in the persecution of Muslims overseas
Mr Ali undertook preparations for this planned attack over a week-long period from late March to early April 2017. During this time Mr Ali contacted two men for the purpose of sourcing an automatic firearm and ammunition. Unbeknownst to Mr Ali, the persons he was communicating with were undercover operatives. Whilst Mr Ali made no further attempts to acquire a firearm, his intention to engage in a terrorist attack persisted up until the time of his arrest.
The Court of Appeal upheld the Director’s appeal against sentence and significantly increased Mr Ali’s sentence. The Court found that the sentence imposed at first instance failed to sufficiently denounce the offending or serve as a general deterrent to others. The Court found that the terrorist act planned by Mr Ali was of the most terrible kind. He intended to inflict mass casualties on random members of the public, gathered together at a time of annual civic celebration. An additional sinister element was that he planned to take hostages, which would have subjected a smaller group of victims to a more intimately terrifying encounter. Mr Ali’s plan was designed to instil widespread fear in the community and, had it come to fruition, would have left an indelible stain on the civic and national consciousness. The gravity of Mr Ali’s offending and his moral culpability were found to be of the highest level. The Court indicated that Mr Ali’s renunciation of extremist ideology and his positive prospects of rehabilitation reduced what would have otherwise been a significantly higher sentence. The Court re-sentenced Mr Ali to 16 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 12 years.