Michael Finnane Opens Up About Sentencing Bilal Skaf

Famous judge chats to Waleed about his reputation as a tough judge

Four years after his retirement from judging, Michael Finnane has no regrets about his reputation as one of Australia’s toughest judges.

Now 75, Michael has moved back to the other side, becoming a QC. But he’ll be best remembered for the 2002 case, when he sentenced Sydney gang rape leader Bilal Skaf to a maximum of 55 years behind bars in a blaze of publicity.

In August 2000, at least seven women were sexually assaulted or pack raped multiple times by a gang of at least nine men. Michael heard the case of several of the men.

Michael tells The Project host Waleed Aly that the case created an extraordinary amount of interest amongst the general public - for a couple of reasons.

“One is a bad reason. The bad reason is that the perpetrators were all, by racial background, Lebanese, and I think there’s a lot of racism in our community and I think that in itself attracted a lot of interest.”

Michael objects to being used by shock jocks and others to advance racist agendas. His aim was to get justice for the women, for a crime that was brutal, premeditated and mapped out.

“The second part of it was that these people were part of an organised conspiracy,” Michael adds, describing a process where two or three groups or men coordinated to meet up to perform these violent assaults.

Skaf’s sentence was cut to 28 years after appeal, but Michael still feels that his sentence, for the worst case he’d ever seen, was fair.

“What I did was quite consistent. I thought people who are dangerous should be locked away and prevented from threatening people.”

Michael has now published his memoirs in his book “The Pursuit of Justice”.

On The Project tonight, Michael speaks further about sentencing, and whether he thinks paedophiles can be rehabilitated.