Friday, May 25, 2018
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
By Nancy Notzon, ABC News
Archbishop Philip Wilson's legal team tried four times to have the case thrown out of court.
The most senior Catholic to be charged with concealing child sexual abuse — Adelaide's Archbishop Philip Wilson — has been found guilty by a New South Wales court, in a landmark ruling.
The 67-year-old was accused of covering up abuse by priest Jim Fletcher in the NSW Hunter region in the 1970s.
As part of his defence, Wilson's legal team tried to argue that as child sexual abuse was not considered a serious crime in the 1970s, it was not worthy of being reported to authorities.
However, Magistrate Robert Stone cast that claim aside in a ruling that could have ramifications in courts around the country.
Speaking outside court, abuse survivor Peter Gogarty said the verdict was "one of the most significant days in criminal law in Australian history".
Abuse survivor Peter Gogarty thanked police and the prosecution for their work on the case.
"I think this will now open the doors for other jurisdictions to start looking at trying to prosecute people who deliberately looked after their institution and, literally, threw children to the wolves," Mr Gogarty said.
"On behalf of all of the victims — who have been abused in this country and elsewhere — I just want to say what an enormous relief it is that the people who let this happen are finally being brought to account."
There were gasps from those in the packed courtroom when Magistrate Stone handed down the verdict.
People were crying and shaking hands after the hearing.
The prosecution has requested a custodial sentence for Wilson, for reasons of "deterrence" and "denunciation".
Wilson remains on bail on the condition that he attends his sentencing hearing, which will be held on June 19.
The harshest sentence Magistrate Stone is able to give is two years in prison, and he has the option of suspending the sentence.
"Archbishop Wilson knew what James Patrick Fletcher was up to in 1976," Mr Gogarty said.
"Fletcher was already abusing me by then, but Wilson could've stopped it, he could've got me help.
"I am very pleased that the prosecution is going to push for a custodial sentence.
"We're talking about children being sexually abused and the Archbishop knew — that to me demands a custodial sentence."
In a statement, Archbishop Wilson said he was "obviously disappointed at the decision published today".
"I will now have to consider the reasons and consult closely with my lawyers to determine the next steps," Wilson said.
Wilson's legal team made four attempts to have the case thrown out, arguing it was not in the public interest and that his diagnosis of Alzheimer's should preclude him from trial — although it did not preclude him from retaining his position in the church.
Peter Creigh (centre)
His lawyers maintained throughout the trial in Newcastle Local Court that while one victim, Peter Creigh, was abused by Fletcher as a child, Wilson, who was an assistant parish priest in East Maitland at the time, did not know about it.
Mr Creigh previously asked for a non-publication order on his name to be lifted.
He clutched his partner's hand as Magistrate Stone read out the verdict. The magistrate said he found Mr Creigh to be a truthful and reliable witness.
"I am satisfied and find that Mr Creigh described to the accused he performed fellatio of Fletcher and masturbated Mr Fletcher," Magistrate Stone said.
Magistrate Stone said he did not accept Wilson could not remember a 1976 conversation, in which Mr Creigh, who would have been aged 15 at that time, described his abuse at the hands of Fletcher.
The magistrate said Mr Creigh "had no motive or interest to deceive or make up the conversation".
Magistrate Stone said Wilson knew "what he was hearing was a credible allegation and the accused wanted to protect the church and its reputation".
The magistrate said if Wilson had reported what he knew to police, it would have helped in prosecuting Fletcher.
He said Wilson knew the Creigh family.
"He knew what the young man was telling him was believable," Magistrate Stone said.
Magistrate Stone said he accepted Wilson had no role in the assaults and that Fletcher had never made admissions to him.
Friday, May 18, 2018
In 1967, 90.77 per cent of Australians voted yes for a change that they believed would improve the lives of Indigenous peoples.
They thought the referendum gave Aboriginal people citizenship rights and the right to vote.
In fact, it did neither of these two things.
The two changes that did occur were, firstly, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were to be included in the census, and secondly that the Federal Government was given the power to make laws for Indigenous people.
Up until that point, Indigenous people were the responsibility of the states.
At the time of the referendum, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people could vote in every part of Australia, with the Queensland laws being the last to change in 1965.
Friday, May 11, 2018
By Jacob Kagi
According to Barry Urban, the horrors he witnessed while investigating war crimes in the Balkans as part of a 1990s United Nations mission still have a chilling effect on him two decades later.
"When you go into a town and you see bore water on the side of a wall of limestone, it is not bore water; it is actually blood," the now former WA MP told the state's most powerful parliamentary committee.
"I can tell you more gory stories of fields where DNA [was] 100 metres apart, body parts, where it was just artillery fire."
Mr Urban, elected to State Parliament in an upset result in the seat of Darling Range as part of WA Labor's 2017 landslide, had long maintained he was seconded from England's West Midlands Police to investigate atrocities linked to the conflict in the Balkans.
But the Procedure and Privileges Committee, tasked with investigating his qualifications and claims, found serious holes in that story.
Barry Urban's unproven claims:
· He had a degree from the University of Leeds;
· He had a Certificate of Higher Education in Policing from the University of Portsmouth;
· He had completed nine out of 10 modules of a Diploma of Local Government;
· He was seconded from West Midlands Police in 1998 and served with the United Nations mission in the Balkans, where he provided security for a team investigating war crimes;
· He was posted a service medal by UK authorities;
· He subsequently lost such medal;
· He was entitled to wear such a medal; and
· He was under a genuine but mistaken belief that he was entitled to wear a replica police overseas service medal.
He said he served in a team of six British police officers, but could not name one of them or even say where they came from.
He was asked if he could name a commanding officer of the task force. The best he could offer was there was a "General Molineux" there.
Perhaps coincidentally, Molineux is the name of one of the biggest football stadiums in the British police district in which Mr Urban actually did work.
A list of West Midlands officers who went to Bosnia did not include Mr Urban's name.
The only bit of evidence he could provide to the committee was a 1998 policing career review, which noted a posting to Bosnia was an aim he had.
Mr Urban said the person who wrote that, plus other senior West Midlands officers from the time, would verify his claims.
They did not.
The now-retired officer who wrote that 1998 review told the committee:
"You could not always trust everything he said. I have a feeling it's all baloney,"
"I'm absolutely convinced he never went to Bosnia," another former superior said.
The committee, who recommended Mr Urban's expulsion from Parliament, agreed.
And they found the alleged Balkans mission was not the only matter about which Mr Urban lied.
'Sounds like a load of nonsense'
The committee found claims he had completed a diploma through the WA Local Government Association were incorrect, and he was also found to have lied extensively about the "fake medal" that kicked off the whole scandal late last year.
He had initially claimed to have completed postgraduate studies at Portsmouth University, but later admitted not having ever stepped foot on the campus.
Mr Urban claimed all it took for that "qualification" was for him to submit his police probation file.
But the university has no record of him, or of anything like that course existing, and former police force colleagues outwardly mocked the suggestion when queried.
So too was his claim to have earlier secured a degree from Leeds University.
That institution had no record of him, a close work colleague from the time said it would have been "impossible" for Mr Urban to do that, and a newspaper listing of graduates at the time did not list his name.
Mr Urban provided a document he claimed was his degree. The committee saw it differently.
"Given that the committee has established beyond reasonable doubt that the member has not been awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree with honours, [the document] can only and must necessarily be described as a forgery," committee chair and house Speaker Peter Watson told Parliament.
That forged document was also provided to other organisations in an illegal act, Mr Watson stated.
With five key claims made by Mr Urban both in Parliament and before the election all found to have been thoroughly debunked, the committee found the situation was beyond repair.
"The committee is of the view that the Member for Darling Range has demonstrated a pattern of serial dishonesty and deception for at least two decades," Mr Watson said.
"The committee does not consider that [Mr Urban] is the person he represented himself to be."
Friday, May 4, 2018
By Brooke Wylie, ABC News
The wife of a convicted Islamic State recruiter has become the first person in NSW to be found guilty of refusing to stand for a judge in court.
Moutiaa El-Zahed, 50, was charged with nine counts of engaging in disrespectful behaviour in court, an offence that was introduced in NSW in 2016.
She sat defiantly with her arms folded as she was found guilty of the charges.
A Sydney Magistrate said Ms El-Zahed "communicated a lack of respect for the court and the judge" by not rising to her feet when District Court Judge Audrey Balla came in and out of court during a civil hearing in 2016.
"There is no evidence before this court that she genuinely held any religious beliefs [and] there is no evidence that the teachings of Islam compelled this conduct," Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman said.
Ms El-Zahed is the wife of convicted Islamic State recruiter Hamdi Alqudsi, who is serving a six-year jail sentence for helping young Australians travel to Syria to fight.
In 2014, during a counter-terror raid on her home, Ms El-Zahed along with her two sons and her husband alleged they were assaulted by police and falsely imprisoned.
They took the matter to court and the case was dismissed, but during the hearings the court found she knowingly refused to stand when the judge entered the room.
At the time, when the matter was raised, her lawyer advised the court he was "not happy" about his client's decision not to stand.
"My instructions is that she won't stand for anyone but Allah your honour," he said.
Judge Balla warned she could be subject to legal action.
"It may well be that each occasion she does it, may be considered a separate offence," she said.
Dressed in a black niqab, she stood as Magistrate Huntsman entered Sydney's Downing Centre courtroom today.
But upon the magistrate leaving, Ms El-Zahed remained seated and crossed her arms.
Magistrate rejects claim NSW laws were unconstitutional
Magistrate Huntsman determined 2016 legislation making it an offence to be disrespectful in court was constitutionally valid.
In 2016, NSW Parliament passed the Courts Legislation Amendment (Disrespectful Behaviour) Bill which attracts a maximum penalty of 14 days in jail or a $1,100 fine.
The law was the first of its kind in Australia and it applies to all courts in NSW except the Children's Court.
Magistrate Huntsman, in delivering her judgement, rejected defence claims that the legislation introduced under then-NSW attorney-general Gabrielle Upton was unconstitutional
"I reject the defendants contention that section 200(a) is rendered invalid," she said.
The matter will return to court on June 15.
Thursday, May 3, 2018
Friday, April 27, 2018
The ACT government has finally given in to pill testing for Groovin the Moo music festival to be held at the University of Canberra this weekend.
Festival goers will be able to have their illegal drugs tested by independent group STA-SAFE.
It’s been happening for years in America and Europe but as usual, common sense sometimes evades the people responsible for giving the green light.
And I can understand their concern. Parents believe that by allowing illegal drugs to be tested, they are condoning kids taking drugs at rock concerts.
But I don't think our kids are that stupid, and not everyone at the concert will be popping pills. But for those who do, it gives them the reassurance that they won’t end up on a slab in the morgue.
The trial was supposed to happen last November for the Spilt Milk festival but permission was denied at the last minute. That’s when do-it-yourself colour-changing kits arrived online which cost between $20-50 each.
Parents worried about their child being singled out as a drug user need not worry – if their child offer their pill/pills for testing, they will remain anonymous. You hope.