Friday, March 06, 2009

A great rarity: Crooked cop goes to jail

A policeman jailed for turning off a watch-house video which was recording while another officer punched a female prisoner had his appeal dismissed. In the District Court at Beenleigh late last year, Craig Stuart Ablitt was sentenced to 15 months' jail to be suspended after five months. He had pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in the assault of Dulcie Isobelle Birt, 25, by disgraced fellow officer Justin Anthony Burkett.

The court heard Ablitt switched off the video which taped prisoners in their cells just before Burkett punched Birt about the head and body at the Loganholme watch-house on April 5, 2004. Birt was being held on shoplifting charges at the time.

Ablitt was in charge of the videotape console at the watch-house and turned the machine off during a confrontation between Burkett and Birt in the cell. It was alleged that later that shift, Ablitt handed the video to Burkett, saying:"You had better put that in your top drawer".

Last August Burkett was sentenced to three years' jail, suspended after nine months, after pleading guilty to perjury, attempting to pervert the course of justice and assault causing bodily harm.

In the Court of Appeal, Michael Byrne QC, for Ablitt, argued there should be a reduction in his client's sentence to maintain parity with Burkett's sentence. However, in an unanimous judgment the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Justice Cate Holmes said Ablitt's action had the ability to undermine confidence in the police service and the administration of justice. "Ablitt was the senior officer on duty at the police station and his actions that day show a gross dereliction of duty," Justice Holmes said


Useless public hospital emergency department

With his foot aching from serious burns, Norman Daw was forced to find other care after waiting five-and-a-half hours for treatment at Caboolture's emergency department. A hot bolt had dropped into his boot during an industrial accident last month, causing an injury which needed a skin graft.

Despite the pain, he drove home to Springfield, on Brisbane's southside, to see his own doctor. He said his doctor referred him to the burns unit at Royal Brisbane Hospital where he had the burnt flesh removed and skin grafted into the wound the next week.

"I wouldn't take a dead cat to the place (Caboolture)," he said. "I'm not saying the staff were at fault. "They mustn't have the numbers to see how the nurses on duty did not have the knowledge to recognise a severe burn." He was angry that although emergency department staff had put cream on the wound and dressed it, he was not offered pain relief or referred immediately to the burns unit in Brisbane.

A Queensland Health spokesman said a nurse assessed all patients who arrived at the emergency department. Category 1 and 2 patients usually were experiencing a life-threatening situation. In non-urgent cases, patients are stabilised, treated and referred to facilities as required.


Fruit juice with added goodness may be bad

FRUIT juices containing added extras such as herbal supplements or antioxidants do not have significant health benefits and may actually be harmful to some people, Australia's leading consumer group says. An investigation by Choice has found juice with extras such as aloe vera, echinacea, ginkgo, ginseng, spirulina, barley grass and wheat grass did not contain enough of the extracts to have any meaningful health impact.

Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said the low levels could actually be an advantage because some extracts at higher doses were not necessarily safe. He said gingko could interfere with other medications such as anticoagulants while anyone suffering high blood pressure should take ginseng only in small doses and pregnant women should not take it at all. "In our view the use of medicinal herbs in products like juices should be banned unless specific approval is given after a proper safety assessment, an idea which our food regulator has abandoned," he said.

Juices promoting extra antioxidants were also a concern, with no evidence that taking antioxidants as a supplement provided any preventative benefit for cancer or heart disease. "Apple juice has only 14 per cent of the antioxidant capacity you'd get from actually eating an apple," he said. "The juice market is rife with claims which are not matched by reality and it's often best to stick to the whole fruit or vegetable."

Mr Zinn said the juices with added extras were also more expensive than those without. "Many of the products, which go by names such as Kickstart, Energy Lift and Green Recovery, are mostly inexpensive apple juice with a few added extras," he said. One juice from Berri which claimed to contain "over 30 per cent of your daily needs" of omega-3 fats in fact contained only eight per cent of the Heart Foundation's recommended daily dose for men, he said.


Hoax callers to face jail in Queensland

Not before time

The Queensland government is promising to crack down on fake emergency calls after a hoax which cost thousands of dollars. Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts described a hoax call yesterday - claiming a young man had been seriously injured in a fall near Gympie north - as an "act of gross stupidity''. "In the worst case a crank call could cost the lives of people in a real emergency situation.''

He said proposed amendments to legislation meant false and malicious calls to fire and ambulance call centres could attract up to a $10,000 fine or one year in jail. Offenders could also be hit with $1,000 on-the-spot fines.

Chief pilot of the Energex helicopter that was involved in the callout, Craig Mecham, said crank calls wasted thousands of dollars and put lives at risk. The hour's worth of fuel for yesterday's callout cost about $3,000. "It's clearly a waste of resources ... and presents the communication centres with a problem as far as priority and allocation of resources should something else come up,'' he said. "Someone has picked up a mobile phone (in this case) and thought they'd have a bit of fun.''


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