Melbourne: Is this justice for Wayne ‘Mouse’ Perry ?

The crown v’s Easton Woodhead.

Is the life of someone living rough, worth less than someone who isn’t?

HPUV members have been attending the court proceedings to bear witness about the stabbing death of Wayne ‘Mouse’ Perry and to make an informed decision about whether justice has been served through legal processes, not only for Mouse and his family, but also for the broader community of people experiencing homelessness.

HPUV’s position and concerns are highlighted by findings in the 1997 Kipke report, (which were based on data drawn from a survey of 432 people who were experiencing homelessness aged between 13 and 23 years) which demonstrated that people from amongst this group who had been homelessness for 3 years, or longer are 4.7 times more likely than the broader community to be on the receiving end of violent acts, which included being slapped, punched, kicked, burned, beaten up, stabbed and shot.

Currently there is limited quantitative material available. However HPUV’s membership is predominantly people who are currently experiencing homelessness and people who have experienced homelessness, which finds the union being able to draw from a deep pool, of the shared lived experience of homelessness.

HPUV concedes that the following point could be considered as only anecdotal evidence, however HPUV contends that its veracity is sound.

Although the findings of the Kipke report were specific to the 13 to 23 year old age group. The union bears witness to the findings in the Kipke report, as being the norm for people experiencing homelessness of all ages. Equally as atrocious as these figures, is the fact that the perpetrators of violence against people experiencing homelessness rarely face accountability.

As such HPUV sees this case and its ruling as having a direct bearing on the protection of our most fundamental human rights: the right to recognition and equality before the law, and the right to life, which has been interpreted as requiring positive steps to be taken by governments in protecting those most vulnerable.

On 2 November 2015, though the accused had pleaded ‘no contest’ to the charge of stabbing Mouse, the jury finding about the death of Wayne ‘Mouse’ Perry was handed down in the Court, with the accused being found not guilty by reason of mental impairment. In the course of the case, the Crown disputed there was a psychiatric explanation for the events that occurred, and any connection between the delusional beliefs of the perpetrator, and the act of brutally stabbing the victim in the context of a dispute over a stolen motorbike.

At the time of his death, Wayne Mouse Perry was living under the bridge in Enterprize Park, while Easton Woodhead lived in a fifteenth floor CBD apartment paid for by his mother, after she’d had to take out a restraining order on Easton Woodhead for a violent attack inside her home.

HPUV strongly doubts that the same finding would have been handed down if it was the other way around, where the accused was someone living rough, and the person who died from being stabbed was someone who had gone to a rich grammar school.

From HPUV’s perspective, the outcome of this case only further confirms the view, (held by many people experiencing homelessness) that there is a two tier legal system, which exists to only serve the interests of the rich and dispense punishment to the poor.

HPUV’s thoughts are with Mouse’s family at this time. The union membership conveys it wishes for Mouse’s family being able to find peace and heal.

Whilst HPUV is considering the broader implications of this outcome, it takes this opportunity to again state its commitment to never giving up on the goal to ensure, that the human rights belonging to our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness are upheld.

The role of government in protecting the right to life, safety and dignity of all people.

HPUV condemns the government for the role its inaction has played in Mouse’s death and the injuries, illness, harm and in some cases death, of countless others.

The government has failed to fulfil the internationally legal obligation it has of taking ‘concrete’, ‘targeted’, ‘expeditious’ and ‘effective’ steps, (including measures such as budgetary prioritisation and implementing progressive policy) to address homelessness. This dereliction of duty has resulted in the housing needs of people experiencing homelessness not being met, exposing those community members to great and ongoing risk, including many women and children

HPUV’s condemnation of state’s failure to prioritise the needs of homelessness is not without concrete basis. During the Napthine premiership 470 million dollars was cut from the homeless budget over a 4 year period. This coincided with findings of a ministerial advisory committee – concerned with reporting on growing numbers of people experiencing homelessness, implications for government with increased demand on social housing resources, and the state of disrepair in overcrowded boarding houses – which were redacted from the then planning minister, Matt Guy’s ‘Plan Melbourne’ Report. There are already 35,000 people on the public housing waiting list, increasing by 100 people per month, who are currently waiting on that public housing waiting list for between 7 and 10 years.

As a union we state that the minimum expectations necessary to support the life, safety and dignity of persons experiencing homelessness, demand:

That in the immediate future, to prevent further injury, harm and loss of life to homeless people, the government restore the public housing stock from the current level of 3%, back to the 30 % level that existed under previous governments.

2. The government sets up an independent body to look into the relationship between the current investment property practices and the effects these practices have on housing affordability and people’s capacity to enter the housing market and the implications this has on even further strain being placed on existing public housing resources.

3. That the practice of Land banking, (where developers have on average 15 years of land which they can release, but only do so at a pace that ensures they can maximise their profit) ends. Forcing ‘Land Barons’ to release land now would have a flow on effect to the land prices and in turn housing affordability.

The response so far to that suggestion has been that the government hasn’t got the funds to pay for the infrastructure associated with new suburbs being built, however HPUV contends that implementing policies that addresses corporate tax avoidance would see revenue becoming available to the government that currently isn’t.

HPUV notes that ICAC identified the relationship between government and land ‘Barons’ as being the highest source of government corruption, painting a clear picture that people’s disadvantage and suffering (and in Mouse’s case death) is the direct result of the commercially exploitive practices of an elbow rubbing elite.

Finally HPUV demands that the government opens up channels of communication that enables people experiencing homelessness, to not only be in direct consultation with the government, but as importantly as equal stakeholders who have an integral say in policy development and the way services are delivered.

HPUV announces:

“If the government can’t reverse the course it is currently on, where the best answer that it can offer in relation to the real human needs of people experiencing homelessness NOW, is to pay lip service about what will be tangibly available in the year 2050.

If this is it, this is a manifest and grave failure on the governments behalf to take ‘concrete’, ‘targeted’, ‘expeditious’ and ‘effective’ steps, (including budgetary prioritisation & implementing progressive policy) to ensure it is meeting its internationally ‘legal’ responsibility, to protect and advance the human rights of all people, especially those people who are amongst the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society the men, women and children experiencing homelessness.

The union reasons this is a breach of the governments contract to all people and not only establishes governments incapacity to function as state, but also sets the foundations for the people pursuing court action against elected officials, for charges of crimes against humanity.

Other than the struggle of living on Struggle Street, people experiencing homelessness have nothing else to lose and HPUV will remain fighting until that struggle no longer exists.

Homeless Persons Union of Victoria
hpuvic [at] gmail [dot] com