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By David Estcourt
The victim of historical sexual abuse by former Collingwood cheer squad identity Jeffrey “Joffa” Corfe is urging prosecutors to appeal the sentence imposed on his abuser, saying the fact that Corfe will not go to prison over the incident means he’s “gotten away with something”.
Corfe in November last year pleaded guilty to abusing Yarraville man Alex Case in 2004, after inviting him to his home when Corfe was 44 and Case 14. On Tuesday, County Court judge Gerard Mullaly handed Corfe a 12-month prison term, wholly suspended for two years, meaning he will avoid prison.
Alex Case was abused by Jeffrey Corfe.Credit:Eddie Jim
Case, now 32, has given The Age permission to use his name and spoken of his disappointment at the outcome.
“I feel like he’s gotten away with something,” Case said. “I wanted to make sure he was held accountable for what he did to me.
“He’s effectively getting off.”
The pair had communicated sporadically via email and MSN chat from late 2004 to early 2005, before arranging to meet up in person.
The Age has seen emails between the pair written in 2005. They show Corfe routinely guiding the conversation back to sexual topics, as Case asked questions.
When Case arrived for their first face-to-face meeting, the person he met – Corfe – was older and more unkempt. Even though he didn’t match the description, Case said he didn’t leave because he did not want to upset or offend Corfe.
Jeffrey Corfe being questioned by reporters outside the Melbourne County Court in February.Credit:Luis Ascui
There, oral sex occurred, before Case left upset.
Case later texted to say Corfe shouldn’t have done what he did to a young person. Corfe then messaged back, agreed and apologised.
The sentence means Corfe receives a term of imprisonment, which is suspended for a period of time. If Corfe is found guilty of an offence punishable by prison within the period of the suspended sentence, he must serve the original term.
Corfe, who had returned to Brisbane, watched the sentence online.
Case told The Age he decided to report the allegations one evening in June 2020.
He was sitting on the couch in his Doncaster home sorting through emails, trying to find login information for an old social media account when the email chain between him and his abuser came up, and he read the sentence that blew his life apart: “I was wonderin have we allready met?”
That sentence, sent by Corfe before he abused Case, set the possibility that Case was not the only victim. It hung in Case’s head, reverberated off the screen, and spurred him into action.
“My heart just started racing because I just realised what kind of seemed almost unbelievable in my mind,” he said. “The fact that he was asking whether we had met before, after he knew how old I was, that’s what irked me.”
The next morning, he was at Coburg police station with print-outs of the emails, speaking with a police officer. Case says the sentence disappointed him.
“After going to the police, that was the beginning of my own prison sentence … I kind of asked myself why did I even bother? Like, it seems like it made no difference.
“I’ve effectively been hiding in prison … since that very day that I went to the police because I’ve just been waiting and waiting and waiting.
“It definitely doesn’t meet community expectations.”
Jeffrey Corfe outside the MCG in 2018.Credit:Justin McManus
Judge Mullaly indicated in November that Corfe would likely avoid prison over that incident, in part because of his good character.
“He can call on his good character and … his significant contributions to the community in asking for a merciful sentence for what was a one-off event,” Mullaly said last year.
However, the notion that the offending was a one-off was thrown into doubt by a second allegation of sexual assault reported by this masthead in December.
Thomas*, who is now 39 and lives in Melbourne’s west, alleges he was 15 when he began speaking to Corfe on a hotline for LGTBQ teenagers in early 1999.
Thomas says Corfe originally told him that he was a 22-year-old counsellor named David and arranged to meet at a Collingwood football match a few weeks after his 16th birthday.
At the time, Corfe was 39 and was allegedly aware Thomas was 15 when they first spoke on the phone. Thomas did not report the case to police. When Case spoke to Corfe, he also used the name David.
I kind of asked myself why did I even bother? Like, it seems like it made no difference.
Corfe, formerly the Collingwood Football Club cheer squad leader, was a prominent member of Melbourne’s football community. He starred in an independent Australian buddy movie in 2010, Joffa: The Movie, and in June 2015 published an autobiography called Joffa: Isn’t That Life?
Case says he did not recognise Corfe as he rose in prominence. Corfe’s prosecution also exposed an issue in the justice system that caused Case consternation and worries advocates.
Earlier in Corfe’s prosecution, he had requested a sentencing indication, a relatively new option for people accused of crimes. It allows them to get a sense of what their sentence will be, potentially encouraging them to plead guilty.
The first judge to consider the indication, Judge Frank Gucciardo, said he could not produce one. Judge Mullaly, a more senior judge at the Victorian County Court, stepped in and told Corfe his abuse would not attract a stint in prison.
During the process, Case wrote a victim impact statement, wanting his voice to be heard and considered when Mullaly was deciding what sentence to hand Corfe.
“I feel like he’s gotten away with something,” Case said.Credit:Eddie Jim
There are risks in writing a victim impact statement for a sentencing indication. If the sentencing indication is not accepted by the accused and the case proceeds to trial, the defence can use any information in the sentencing indication to undermine the evidence given by the victim.
Aware of that risk, Case says he was restrained when writing the statement for Mullaly because he feared the information could be used against him.
“I feel that I didn’t get an opportunity to fully convey exactly how what happened on that day in 2005 has affected the rest of my life,” he said.
“The fact that a victim of a violent crime risks anything at the point of a sentence indication hearing when a judge is supposed to be setting the ceiling for a punishment, there should be no legal risk there for the victim.
“The fact that it could be used against me that was always in the back of my mind.”
In August last year, the court expressed concern that statements made by a victim of crime in a victim impact statement could be introduced into a subsequent trial as a means of discrediting the maker of those statements.
“They are made at a time when the victim may be very emotional and may express intimate feelings with less restraint than evidence in a formal trial setting,” justices Karin Emerton, Emilios Kyrou and Terry Forrest wrote in a joint judgment.
They said impact statements were a victim’s only chance of communicating to the court how they had been affected by a crime, and noted victims perform an admirable service to the legal system by providing such statements.
“Courts are required to take the impact into account when imposing sentence, and any activities that may inhibit the free flow of information from victim to court are to be deprecated,” they wrote.
When he reflects on it, Case says Corfe’s abuse impacted his entire life.
“It was as if that glass box full of fog that I always knew was there, and I never stared at for long enough to fully see … was actually stuck there in the back of my mind because obviously, it was hard,” he said.
“I blamed myself for this bad thing that I was terrified of anyone finding out about.”
His feelings were so deeply suppressed, Case believes if someone had asked him whether he had been abused, he would have been able to say “no” and pass a lie detector test.
“I couldn’t even access it [the memory], I had suppressed it that much,” he said.
Victims of Crime Commissioner Fiona McCormack would not comment specifically on the Corfe matter, but said victims need greater access to legal representation when matters go to court.
“What really shocks me in this job is the extent to which people tell me … they’re traumatised by the justice system,” she said.
*Thomas is not his real name. The man cannot be named for legal reasons.
If you or anyone you know needs support, you can phone the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline on 131 114, or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
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