Sunday, October 17, 2010

Inexcusable failure to prosecute accomplices of thug Queensland cop

There is plenty of precedent for the prosecution of all cops present at the attacks -- e.g. R v Dytham [1979] Q.B. 722

THE Crime and Misconduct Commission has been urged to re-investigate the Airlie Beach police bashings following the release of disturbing video footage of assaults by jailed former officer Benjamin Price.

The videos show other officers watching and in one case assisting Price during his assaults on handcuffed offenders, but the police service has said there is not enough evidence to charge them.

In a letter sent to the CMC, Queensland Council of Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman said there were indications the police handling of the case had been "less than rigorous". "It is submitted there are a number of unaddressed issues in relation to the Airlie Beach matter, which bear an unfortunate similarity to the steps engaged in by various police in relation to the cover-up of the Palm Island affair," the letter reads.

Mr O'Gorman said there were "unsatisfactory aspects" to the Price case that warranted a thorough investigation.

"Why have criminal charges not been laid against the other officers who were present when a fire hose was shoved down the complainant's throat?" Mr O'Gorman said. "Why was Mr Price charged with the lesser offence of assault occasioning bodily harm when on the facts publicly known a charge of torture was clearly open?"

He said other senior criminal lawyers were of the opinion that under the law, the other officers who were present during the assaults could be charged. "Presence in something like that is regarded as encouragement," Mr O'Gorman said. "Secondly, the bloke who hands the police officer the hose is an alleged accomplice. That's criminal law 101."

A CMC spokeswoman said the investigation into officers who observed the assaults was "ongoing". "The CMC will be provided with a report from the QPS Ethical Standards Command. This report will outline the action the ESC is recommending against the officers," she said.

The videos posted by Queensland Police on YouTube have now been viewed by almost 200,000 people and have also been uploaded to other websites in India, New Zealand, the UK and the US.

Mr O'Gorman also criticised the "doctoring" of the footage including the lack of audio, but the CMC spokeswoman said the release of the video was a matter for the QPS.


For more background on the above, see my Queensland cops blog

New call to tax junk food

No evidence quoted to show that the proposed taxes will have any effect on obesity. You know why? Because there IS NO such evidence -- none that I have seen after years of reading in the literature anyway. If you tax a particular food, it is basic economics that people will switch their preferences to other foods. People will just get the calories they want elsewhere. And a tax on salty food would be a real laugh. Are they going to confiscate all salt-shakers as well?

The article below makes vague reference to a study of salty foods that supports their case so I looked up the MJA to get the exact reference but the latest issue does not contain the article referenced. Maybe it has not yet been put online. I'm betting that the "study" concerned was either a simulation or the usual epidemiological crap -- such as this. Only a double blind study would settle the matter

More public health experts have joined the call for a tax on junk food, saying the existing focus on "individual behaviour change" will do little to curb surging rates of obesity. Ms Holly Bond, PhD candidate at the Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights, said more than 60 per cent of Australian adults and one in four children were now either overweight or obese.

Obesity had overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness, and yet government had so far resisted calls to adopt the same approach it championed for tobacco and alcohol. "Junk foods have the same pattern of misuse and the same social costs as tobacco and alcohol," said Ms Bond, from Monash University. "... We propose that a tax on junk food be implemented as a tool to reduce consumption and address the obesity epidemic."

Ms Bond said while many foods were high in sugar, salt and fat the tax could be applied to the "worst foods" in this category, those which had "little to no nutritional value such as potato chips, confectionary and soft drinks".

In an paper published in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia, she points to US research which found a 10 per cent increase in soft drink prices would reduce consumption by 8 - 10 per cent. Another study found a 10 per cent increase in the price of salty snacks could reduce a typical American’s body weight by up to half a kilogram per year, and generate $1 billion. [So salt makes you fat???] It also found a 10 per cent reduction in fruit and vegetable prices, subsidised using junk food tax revenue, would increase their purchase by 7 and 5.8 per cent respectively.

"Unsurprisingly, the US soda industry, which claims that such taxes would ‘hurt hard working, low and middle income families, elderly residents and those living on fixed incomes‘ would destroy jobs," Ms Bond said. "Arguments of this sort were raised by the tobacco industry when tobacco taxation was first proposed."

Ms Bond said the companies involved in the sale of junk food had a responsibility to their shareholders first and so would "resist any change" that could hurt profits even those "for the greater public good".

She said the Henry tax review emphasised the importance of tobacco taxes in reducing smoking (but it ruled out a junk food tax) while a recent National Preventative and Health Taskforce report did recommend a review of tax policy to encourage healthier eating. "The government will more likely continue to construct obesity as a problem of individual behaviour change rather than one requiring comprehensive interventions," Ms Bond said. "This approach aligns with industry objectives and ... the results will probably be the softest forms of regulation, such as voluntary targets."

Imposing a 10 per cent tax on all junk food was also a central plank of the ACE-Prevention report, released last month and backed by the Public Health Association of Australia.


Innocent people jailed -- but no justice for them

Most acquitted people can't afford to sue

THE only thing stopping hundreds of people who are denied bail and later acquitted of charges each year from suing the government is that they can't afford it, shadow attorney-general Greg Smith says. About one-quarter, or 2600, of NSW prisoners are on remand [i.e. locked up without trial], twice the number of any other state, a government review of bail laws revealed this week. About 30 per cent of these are later acquitted but the review did not recommend any changes in policy.

"In a previous age there would be all sorts of damages actions being taken but that's not happening these days as there's no legal aid available for it," Mr Smith said.

His comments followed the revelation yesterday that the judges in charge of the state's three main courts - Supreme, District and Local - all believe tough law and order policies in NSW have gone too far. Chief Justice Jim Spigelman and Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson told The Sydney Morning Herald they agreed with a call by Chief Judge Reg Blanch for a more comprehensive review of bail and sentencing in NSW. Justice Blanch made the comment in June in light of soaring remand populations and longer sentences that he said were destroying the chances of rehabilitating offenders, rather than reducing crime.

Mr Smith said the judges were simply "showing the commonsense and experience that they get from applying criminal justice". "They would know that many of the changes that came as a result of law and order actions have been more damaging than advantageous for the criminal justice system. "I know there are some who think judges are too lenient but in my experience they generally get it right, or pretty right. It's only the aberrations that get publicised … and you shouldn't make big changes to the law to cover some embarrassing court case."

He agreed with Justice Blanch that it was time to review section 22A of the Bail Act, which had led to overcrowding particularly in juvenile justice centres, and standard non-parole periods, which Mr Smith said were inconsistent and should be replaced in some cases by guideline judgments created by the courts.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General would only comment when the Herald series is complete.


Rudd opens embassy to Holy See

Rudd got a bit hyperbolic but in general I agree with him on this one. A nice tribute to former National Party stalwat Tim Fischer too -- JR

ON the eve of the canonisation of our first saint, Australia has further strengthened its ties with the Vatican with the official opening of the first permanent Chancery of the Australian embassy to the Holy See.

Australia first established diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1973, but only installed a resident ambassador in 2009 when Tim Fischer took up the appointment.

Yesterday Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd declared the new embassy officially open, watched by Cardinal George Pell, Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop, Mr Fischer, members of the Sisters of St Joseph, and Vatican dignitaries. "It's a good day for our relationship with the Holy See. It is a day which we should celebrate," Mr Rudd said.

"It also represents the completion of some unfinished business. "The decision to establish this resident embassy and a resident ambassador to the Holy See that we took in 2008 reflected first and foremost our mark of respect and high regard to the role of the Catholic Church in Australia."

Mr Rudd said there are several areas of "great consequence" to the people of Australia where the Government works with the Holy See.

Since taking up his appointment in January 2009, Mr Fischer has engaged with senior Vatican figures on issues including human rights, disarmament, ethical economic growth and food security.

"One thing about Tim Fischer, here is a man who doesn't just have a big hat, he has a big heart," Mr Rudd said. "When you see the Akubra working its way methodically across the halls of the Vatican, there just doesn't go a piece of Australian iconography, there goes a living embodiment of the Australian spirit."

Mr Rudd said not only was the cost of establishing the embassy justified, it was overdue. "I think it's entirely justified. Question: how many countries around the world have resident embassies here in the Holy See? Answer: 77," he said.

"How many major countries in the world who are members of the G20 have resident embassies to the Holy See? All of them, except Australia in 2008. "So let's just put this into a bit of context hey? Fair dinkum ... it's nothing remarkable, it's nothing unique, in fact we are later by a country mile than most."


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