Sunday, February 22, 2009

How to protect the guilty and endanger the innocent

Criminals allowed to hide their past in Left-run Victoria

Violent criminals and sex offenders are being allowed to change their names by deed poll, helping them hide their pasts and reduce the risk of revenge attacks. Criminals and sex offenders not listed on a registry can pay $58.80 and change their name by deed poll. And while the worst sex offenders face name-changing restrictions, they can still apply to authorities to hide their identities.

The Adult Parole Board said 21 of 25 parolees who had applied for a new name were approved. But the State Government and police have refused to say how many registered sex criminals and prisoners in total have been given the green light for new identities. All three agencies have refused to identify the criminals granted new identities, saying it would breach confidentiality.

But the Sunday Herald Sun understands some criminals are listing fears of revenge attacks from vigilantes as the reason for wanting to change their names. Laws were toughened after it was discovered notorious pedophile Brian "Mr Baldy" Jones wanted to change his name to Shaun Paddick, in an insult to his victims, whose hair he cut. Frankston serial killer Paul Denyer also announced plans to change his name to "Paula".

Crime victims' advocates have slammed the process as a free ride and warned name-changing criminals could easily strike again. The revelations came amid concerns that a serial pedophile jailed this month could be out by October. Jamie Armstrong, 28, of Mt Duneed, pleaded guilty in Geelong County Court to 30 counts of sexually assaulting seven children under 16, and two counts of assault with intent to rape. Armstrong's victims were aged two to 11 and he told police he was always in danger of reoffending, the court heard. He had previously been placed on a community-based order and completed the sex offenders' program, after admitting to indecently assaulting a girl at a pool in 1999. He was sentenced this week to four years' jail with a minimum of 18 months. But having served 10 months on remand he could be out in October.

Anti-child abuse campaigner Hetty Johnston said child sex criminals should be given life sentences on their second offence and no sex offenders should be able to change their names. Parole Board spokesman David Provan said police were notified when criminals changed their names.


Frozen human egg system improved

THE first "frozen egg" baby born in Australia through a revolutionary technique will give single women and couples greater choice for having children later in life. Lucy was born last October to a Sydney couple, and the success is expected to spark huge interest in the technique.

Freezing has been relatively unsuccessful until now because human eggs are so fragile. It has grown out of a demand from mainly single women in their 30s who want to delay childbirth. The $10,000 process is also suitable for cancer patients who store eggs before radiation or chemotherapy, which often damage the reproductive system. The technique would also be used by women who have a family history of early menopause. Because of low success rates in the traditional method of slow egg freezing, women have had to take their chances by relying on IVF, sometimes leaving it too late.

Since July 2006, Sydney IVF has been testing the process, which boasts almost a 100 per cent success rate in freezing and thawing eggs. The IVF breakthrough works by snap-freezing the egg, which avoids ice crystals forming in the cell and damaging genetic material. Vitrification is used around the world to freeze embryos, but has never been successfully used in Australia for eggs.

Dr Kylie de Boer, general manager of Sydney IVF, said she expected numbers of women and couples wanting to freeze their eggs to soar. "Women want to have their eggs frozen for social reasons, such as they are not ready to have children, or for medical reasons," she said. "We get about 5-10 inquiries a month now for egg freezing for social reasons." Only 25 couples so far have used the process, which involves up to 10 eggs being collected and stored in liquid nitrogen vapour. The pregnancy rate is about 63 per cent.

Lucy's parents, who do not wish to be identified, used the process as part of their IVF treatment. Her mother was 37 when she had her eggs frozen. They were stored for six months before being fertilised and the embryo implanted. Now with a healthy girl, the 38-year-old mother said she would recommend it to other women. "My husband and I are so happy with our beautiful little girl," she said. "My pregnancy was textbook and the birth was a natural one, and occurred at full term. "We would love to have more children and will opt for IVF treatment once again."


Kevin Rudd isolated on emissions trading scheme

The Rudd Government is increasingly isolated on the emissions trading scheme, with business supporters demanding further concessions to mitigate its immediate impact and green groups and the Coalition intensifying their attacks. A day after the Government was forced to confirm publicly it was sticking by its plans to introduce an ETS in July next year, after cancelling an inquiry into the scheme, the Opposition accused the Government of being divided on the issue and the Business Council of Australia said more action was needed to reduce its impact on business during the economic crisis. Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt said indecision and internal division were behind Thursday's decision to dump a House of Representatives inquiry into the ETS.

The BCA, which gave guarded approval to Labor's plans last year, now says the Government has to find a way to minimise the initial cost of the scheme if it comes into effect in July next year. Policy director Maria Tarrant said the economic crisis meant "the Government has to think of a way to minimise the scheme's impact in the early years after its introduction on July 1 2010". "There are likely to be big questions as to whether companies will have the cash flow to buy the permits they need, or invest in the emission-reducing technologies they need at that time and still remain viable," Ms Tarrant said. "It could put many companies' ongoing operations at extreme risk."

With green criticism intensifying, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong yesterday warned environmentalists the ETS was their best chance to see an early reduction in Australian greenhouse gas emissions. Green groups have argued the scheme's lack of ambition and already generous industry compensation means it is fatally flawed. Senator Wong said: "We have a chance now to reduce Australia's emissions next year or, if we fail, to simply allow our emissions to grow. The most responsible thing to do, even in this economic environment, is to start the hard task of reducing our emissions right now."

Australia Institute executive director Richard Denniss and others have advanced the argument that an ETS means an individual's or state's efforts to voluntarily reduce emissions have no impact on the country's total level of greenhouse gas, and that a carbon tax would be a better answer. But Senator Wong rejected those arguments as well. "If you are serious about climate change a carbon tax is not the answer," Senator Wong told The Weekend Australian.

But the federal Coalition appears to be hardening in its opposition to the scheme. And the Australian Industry Group agrees the Government needs to "look at every option" to ameliorate the early costs, warning the effects of the economic crisis risk "fracturing any consensus around this issue".

Among options being canvassed by industry groups are a plan advocated by Professor Ross Garnaut for a low fixed price on carbon in the first two years of the scheme, offering trade-exposed industries all their permits for free in first few years, starting the scheme as a "dry run" without actually charging for permits and offering industries exemptions or holidays from the cost of the renewable energy target.

Coalition emissions trading spokesman Andrew Robb told Sky news yesterday the scheme was a "total failure". And Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said the global financial crisis had "amplified the negative effects of the emissions trading scheme many times over".

Executives from Virgin Blue also told the Senate fuel and energy committee yesterday they were "deeply concerned about the planned timing of the introduction" of the emissions trading scheme. "Even in the most benign circumstances, the (emissions trading scheme) is effectively a tax on investment and growth," said Virgin Blue general manager Simon Thorpe.

The Government is drafting its legislation. It says it intends to try to pass it through both houses of parliament by June, but most observers believe debate will continue later in the year. The Greens have said they are willing to negotiate with the Government over the legislation, but also believe the scheme as it stands is deeply flawed.


Weapons offences have jumped in Victoria

So much for the gun ban

Weapons offences in Victoria have doubled in the past decade. Almost 7000 offences involving guns, knives and other weapons, bombs and explosives were recorded last year. That is up from 6716 crimes detected in 2006-2007 and 3472 crimes in 1998-1999. Hundreds of Victorians were found to be illegally in possession of guns, including pistols, or ammunition, explosives and illegal fireworks.

The most recent figures available show 19 people were caught possessing, carrying or using unlicensed long-armed firearms such as rifles and 17 were caught using a firearm in a dangerous manner. People caught with a gun while prohibited from possessing a weapon numbered 172. A further 16 people were caught trying to take a weapon into court premises, 24 were caught either carrying or using a gun in a public place and 44 using or carrying a gun in a populous place. Eleven people carried a gun while drunk.

There has been a big rise in the number of people charged with arming themselves with pistols or handguns and 258 people were caught in possession of an unregistered handgun. Two people were charged with possessing body armour without approval, while 30 people were charged with selling a firearm to an unlicensed buyer.

Police recorded a clearance rate of 98.5 per cent, meaning they identified the person responsible for the most of the crimes. Police Association secretary Sen-Sgt Greg Davies said people were increasingly likely to turn to weapons if they had been abusing drugs or alcohol, rather than relying on their fists in a fight. "In years gone by you always had the drunken punch-up," he said. "But more and more people are prepared to arm themselves and use a weapon." Sen-Sgt Davies said this had contributed to a rise in serious injuries being sustained by young men and women who were attacked by people with weapons.


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