The West

Anger over baby killer s soft time
The drunk driver who killed baby Nate Dunbar spent less than 10 weeks in Bandyup Prison.

The drunk driver who killed baby Nate Dunbar spent less than 10 weeks in Bandyup Prison before being transferred to a pre-release centre where she lives in village-style accommodation with a cafe, gardens and playgrounds.

The decision to move Melissa Ann Waters so early in her sentence has angered Nate's parents Stacy and Justin, who said she should serve more time in a regular prison.

Waters was more than three times the legal alcohol limit when she crashed into the Dunbars' Merriwa home in January last year, crushing eight-month-old Nate before fleeing the scene.

On September 24, Waters pleaded guilty to dangerous driving occasioning death and driving under the influence of alcohol, and was sentenced to three years and eight months jail.

But on December 2, she was transferred from Bandyup to Boronia pre-release centre, a minimum-security facility near Curtin University designed to help women prepare for freedom.

With parole, Waters' earliest release date is next July.

The Department of Corrective Services' website says Boronia "manages minimum-security female prisoners and their children in a community-style setting".

Killed: Nate Dunbar
Women share Homeswest-style houses and many prisoners leave the centre, which is fenced and secure, to volunteer or work outside. Some prisoners' children stay overnight.

Waters has applied for up to 12 hours leave a month, starting in September. Leave may increase to include weekends outside prison.

Nate's parents learnt of Waters' move to Boronia through the Victim Notification Register, which provides information about the status, location and activities of prisoners.

"Once again the justice system has let us down," Mrs Dunbar said. "When Ms Waters was sentenced, that should have been when my family and I felt justice was served and we could start to grieve and mourn our son.

“But instead, we are made to feel like we are the ones being punished.

“Firstly, by the terribly lenient sentence that was handed out and now to learn that she has only spent 10 ten weeks in the general prison population.

How is it right that she denies us the right to see our son grow up, but the system allows her more time to spend with her family when she should be being punished for killing our son?

“The stress that this has put us under is enormous, and we haven’t been able to truly grieve for our little Nate.”

Angry: Nate Dunbar's father Justin, mother Stacy and brother Kal. Picture: Simon Santi/ The West Australian

The department said Waters was rated minimum security and put on a Boronia waiting list that operated on a “next in line” basis.

Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis did not answer questions on whether such cases eroded public confidence in the prison system.

He supported Corrective Services Commissioner James McMahon and the department’s handling of the case.

“I have discussed the matter with Commissioner McMahon, who has personally reviewed the management of that prisoner today,” Mr Francis said. “I have complete faith in his judgment in the management and rehabilitation of prisoners and his consideration of all parties involved, including the victims.

“Commissioner McMahon has offered to personally discuss the management of that prisoner with the Dunbar family.”


Victims of Crime Commissioner Jennifer Hoffman, who also approached Mr McMahon about the case, said improved communication by the department to victims of crime could alleviate some pain. But it did not mean they would always be happy with the decisions.

Shadow corrective services minister Paul Papalia said moving Waters was a symptom of overcrowding and poor prisoner classification.

The department denied overcrowding at Bandyup, where some prisoners sleep on mattresses on the floor, played any part in its decision.

The West Australian

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