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Getting back to the community

ELDERS: The elders for the Cherbourg Murri Court.
ELDERS: The elders for the Cherbourg Murri Court. Katherine Morris

CHERBOURG'S Murri Court had its first sentencing this week since being reinstated in the community.

Murri Court runs in a unique way to connect with offenders, find solutions to the issues that cause them to offend and work with the court.

Offenders need to prove to the court they have made progress from the first time they faced the magistrate to the time they are sentenced.

It's a long, yet rewarding, process that looks at addressing personal trauma and finding solutions and working on issues, according to Cherbourg elders.

The magistrate does not look down upon them from his chair, he sits across from them at a table next to two community elders as they discuss the progress of the defendant and the steps they have taken to ensure they will not re-offend.

It's a process Desmond Paul Chapman went through.

He was sentenced on Wednesday in Cherbourg Murri Court.

Chapman, 37, pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified and failure to appear.

Chapman has nine other driving while disqualified charges from the past and has served jail time for his repeat offending.

Magistrate Andrew Hackett said he took into account the plea of guilty and the steps Chapman had taken in the Murri Court.

Chapman had been working with the Murri Court for some time to work on not re-offending in the future.

"The facts are known and what's done is done,” Mr Hackett said.

"When you go to Murri Court it's a changing picture of your offending. It's not just 'so and so did this on that date'.

"The thing this court is looking for is positive change and growth and whether we have seen that with you.

"And I think we have.

"During this process, which has been a slow one, you've been in and out of this court for a long time.

"You have shown real progress and you are on a good pathway.”

Aunty Grace Stanley said Chapman had taken positive steps to change his behaviour.

"When you go to Murri Court it takes time. He did this, but he's done all these other things, there has been positive change and growth,” she said.

Mr Hackett said when defendants faced Murri Court, the court got a changing picture of the offending.

"This court is looking for rehabilitation and positive change and growth, the question becomes have we seen that and we have, it's a simple fact,” he said.

Mr Hackett said Chapman had to face his grief after being exposed to tragedy at an early age and losing two friends, and continue to go to his grief counselling.

"You've got to let go of these things so you can grieve,” he said.

"You've started the process and it doesn't stop here.”

Mr Hackett said Chapman's history of repeat offending would normally mean jail time.

Because of his work with the court, however, he was placed on a six-month suspended sentence so he could continue with his rehabilitation.

He was also disqualified from driving for two years.

Michael Dean Chapman, also faced Murri Court to discuss the progress he had made and steps he was taking to not re-offend.

Michael's lawyer Mark Oliver said his client wanted to become a mentor for the young men in the community.

He said his client had achieved employment since working with Murri Court, giving him a sense of pride.

"He's got a job. It's a big step in his rehabilitation, he's providing for his family,” Mr Oliver said.

"He has cut down his drinking.”

Michael's case was adjourned until November 22.

South Burnett

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