In two unrelated but strikingly similar terrorism cases, radicalised individuals were jailed for 42 and 36 years on 5 June 2019, after carrying out stabbing attacks.
In Victoria, Momena Shoma (26) was sentenced to 42 years’ jail with a non-parole period of 31 years and six months, after she pleaded guilty to stabbing her homestay host, Roger Singaravelu, with a knife in Melbourne’s Mill Park on 9 February 2018.
In Sydney, Ihsas Khan (25) was sentenced to 36 years’ jail, with a non-parole period of 27 years, after he was found guilty of stabbing a neighbour, Wayne Greenhalgh, with a knife in the Sydney suburb of Minto on 10 September 2016.
These were the first terrorist attacks perpetrated in Australia by individuals, and CDPP prosecutors knew both cases would be ground breaking. What they didn’t realise was just how many challenges and complications would arise.
In contrast to the majority of counter-terrorism cases prosecuted in Australia previously, both matters were wholly reactive in the way they were investigated. As police were not previously aware of the individuals, no evidence had been gathered in the lead-up to the attacks to fill gaps in the prosecution cases, clarify motives or provide links to accomplices.
In both cases, CDPP prosecutors needed to rely on witness statements from traumatised victims who had been involved in vicious attacks. Managing the witnesses’ experiences, expectations and frustrations, particularly in relation to long delays between plea hearings and sentencing, was a confronting experience for the prosecutors.
Throughout the aftermath of the attacks and criminal prosecution, prosecutors were in close contact with the CDPP’s WAS and wellbeing services, to ensure adequate support was available for those managing the CDPP’s case, and the witnesses involved.
The WAS worked closely with the AFP to ensure the victims, their families and other witnesses directly affected by the attacks had the support, advice and information they needed throughout the prosecution process.
The CDPP’s Deputy Director responsible for Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism, Scott Bruckard, said the substantial sentences imposed in each case reflected the very serious nature of the offending and the need to protect the community from such attacks.
‘The cases have striking similarities in the way the offenders were radicalised and carried out their attacks,’ Mr Bruckard said.
‘This includes the way they were exposed to extremist materials, their commitment to carrying out acts of violent jihad and the nature of the attacks themselves. It also highlights the changing nature of Australia’s security environment and the increasing presentation of cases involving lone actors using relatively unsophisticated methods of attack.’
‘I would like to commend the efforts of the Joint Counter Terrorism Teams who, together with their partner agencies, worked closely with Federal Prosecutors to assemble and present the evidence, which resulted in both offenders being brought to justice.’