Monday, October 11, 2010

Three years in jail without trial. India? Africa? China? Russia? No: Australia

The death of a prisoner in a Queensland jail prompts the question: why was he still awaiting trial after almost three years inside? The evidence seems to point to Cartledge's involvement in Ms Rigg's death. But what if he was innocent?

What do we know about Adam Cartledge? Not a lot except that police reckon he murdered his ex-girlfriend, Michelle Rigg. His best friend, a bloke named Arran Jeffries, couldn't believe it when his mate was charged. saying he was "not a violent person" Whether he changed his mind when Cartledge allegedly led police to her body in a shallow grave is not recorded.

However, we do know is that all this happened almost three years ago, Rigg, 28, was reported missing on November 26, 2007, three days alter she disappeared from a duplex she shared with Cartledge, 39. Cartledge appeared in Southport Magistrates Court on December 3, 2007, charged with her murder.

Last Tuesday, Cartledge was found dead in his cell at Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. The cause has not yet been made public but there are no suspicious circumstances. But there are disgraceful circumstances because Cartledge was still being held awaiting trial almost three years after he was arrested. He wasn't due to appear in court again until June next year.

He may have been a vicious killer but the fact is that he hadn't been found guilty of anything - not even jaywalking - yet he had been banged up in prison for almost three years. A legal maxim has it that justice delayed is justice denied. Cartledge wasn't just denied justice, he didn't even catch a glimpse of it.

And, somewhere, are family and friends who will never see Ms Rigg's memory receive justice. Cartledge, Ms Rigg and the community have been badly served by a system that allowed this to happen. The original police inquiry was pretty standard, with Cartledge charged fairly pronto and Ms Rigg's remains found not long after. Yet, it was almost a year later that Cartledge appeared in court and was committed for trial.

In February this year - you do the sums - he appeared in the Supreme Court before Justice Peter Applegarth. There, prosecutor Belinda Merrin was granted an adjournment on behalf of both the Crown and the defence so a singlet found on Ms Rigg's body could be further examined and a pathologists report could be gathered. This would take six months!

What choice did Justice Applegarth have, when both the Crown and the defence sought the adjournment in the pursuit of justice as they saw it? The best efforts of men and women of intellect, learning, integrity and goodwill unwittingly led to events that delayed justice until eternity.

No one is to blame but we are entitled to wonder about the workloads and/or efficiencies of the courts, the prosecution and the defence that made these delays inevitable. And we are entitled to wonder about the adequacy and the funding of scientific inquiry in Queensland that judicial exhibits and evidence have to be examined in Victoria and take so long

It's not a new issue but it refuses to go away. In this case, the inadequacies have followed a man to his grave. The evidence seems to point to Cartledge's involvement in Ms Rigg's death, or at least in the disposal of her body. It was sufficient for him to be committed for trial. But what if he were innocent? Magna Carta guaranteed: "To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice."

In this case, no rights were sold or refused, but justice was patently denied to both Cartledge and Ms Rigg. And it is denied to many others, with reports that prisoners in Queensland spend on average 6.4 months in custody compared with 5.9 months in Victoria and NSW.

Sympathy for Cartledge will be limited but these sorts of disgraceful delays might be more important to our confidence in the legal system than any passing anger about the fate of a few kiddie-fiddlers. An inquiry is needed if justice is to be anything more than a theoretical concept in Queensland.

The article above by Terry Sweetman appeared (print only) in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 10 October, 2010

Four boats in 48 hours!

Arrival of four more "asylum-seeker" boats shows the utter policy failure of Australia's Leftist government. At that rate Australia's sea borders are looking more porous than the U.S./Mexico border. Is Australia ready for 12 million illegals too? At least the Mexicans come to work. The Afghans come only to be supported by the Australian taxpayer

THE arrival of four asylum boats in 48 hours has pushed numbers in the Christmas Island detention centre to an apparent record. The centre has been forced to operate well beyond its carrying capacity.

With Immigration Minister Chris Bowen flying to East Timor today to begin talks on a regional processing centre, his department has revealed 350 asylum-seekers are being housed in tents.

According to the department, there were 2697 detainees on Christmas Island yesterday, with more on the way following the interception of four asylum boats, at least one of which has yet to unload its passengers.

The centre, which was designed to accommodate 400 people, has undergone successive reconfigurations to house the growing number of detainees.

Falling refugee success rates and the Rudd government's freeze on new Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum claims resulted in a blowout in detention numbers. But even at its capacity of about 2500, the centre is over its limit.

A departmental spokeswoman could not say yesterday if Christmas Island was at record capacity.

But in the period leading up to the Rudd government's decision in April to move detainees to the mainland, numbers on Christmas Island were about 2300, suggesting the facility had hit a new high.

Mr Bowen acknowledged yesterday there were "significant strains" on detention centres. "I've announced some short-term measures to deal with that. I'll be announcing some longer-term measures in the not-too-distant future to deal with those pressures," he added.

Mr Bowen will fly to Dili today to discuss the regional proposal with East Timor's President, Jose Ramos-Horta, and senior officials. From there he will fly to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur for talks aimed at bolstering arrangements for managing the asylum flow.

Despite vocal rejection of the idea by East Timor's opposition parties, Mr Bowen said Canberra had received "encouraging feedback" from Dili about the proposal, announced by Julia Gillard in the lead-up to the federal election. "It's a big issue for East Timor -- it would be a significant development for them, and they obviously have issues they want to work through," Mr Bowen told the Nine Network yesterday. "But, certainly, President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister (Xanana) Gusmao have indicated they are very interested in talking it through."

Since Friday, authorities have intercepted four boats, two of which were lashed together. Their arrival has edged Australia closer to another record -- the highest number of unauthorised boatpeople in a calendar year. A spokeswoman for Border Protection Command said 4924 passengers and 270 crew had arrived this year, bringing the number of unauthorised arrivals to 5194.

According to the Parliamentary Library, the highest number of illegal boat arrivals on record occurred in 2001, when 43 boats carried 5516 people to Australia, not including the crews.


Gun owners raise objections to changes in Weapons Act

Paul Feeney says the toy guns he bought at the Ekka for his grandchildren are not weapons

GUN owners have unleashed their anger over changes to the Weapons Act, bombarding the State Government with almost 1200 submissions.

Unveiled in August, the draft act includes proposals to licence toy guns, restrict the ownership of certain categories of firearm and allow religious exemptions for the possession of knives.

Sporting Shooters Association state president Geoff Jones said their 45,000 members were fundamentally opposed to the "draconian" legislation which sought to penalise lawful gun owners, rather than criminals.

"The new laws are based on restriction (of gun ownership) which we believe is non-productive to community safety, enormously expensive and a serious misdirection of police resources," Mr Jones said. "It's becoming a monster."

Paul Feeney from the Law-Abiding Firearms' Owners said under the draft laws, gun owners would be lumbered with more paperwork, more charges and greater restrictions.

"Our main objection is the over-regulation. It's regulation for regulation's sake and there's no indication from any of the evidence of the need for this sort of thing," Mr Feeney said. "All this will do is produce a bigger bureaucracy to manage this."

One of the most controversial changes to the law is the proposal to require anyone possessing an object that is a "reasonable copy" of a gun, to licence and store it as a gun.

Mr Feeney said that would mean harmless toys such as those he bought his grandchildren at the Ekka had to be kept under lock and key.

"They rattle and sparkle. The grandchildren love playing with them, but because they are almost exact copies of a Steyr rifle and an American AR-15 they would have to be treated as category D weapons," he said. "The people they were designed to entertain wouldn't be able to touch them."

Police Minister Neil Roberts said the submissions were currently being reviewed, with recommendations to go to the Government in coming months.

"While I don't want to pre-empt the recommendations that will be made, the Government asked the community for its feedback on possible changes to the act," Mr Roberts said.

Mr Feeney said a complete revision of firearms licensing was needed. "We object to them being termed as weapons," he said.


Children still being left at bus stops by Brisbane City Council drivers

Government employees in action

ALMOST one complaint is made every weekday about a child being left behind by a bus in Brisbane. Figures released under Right to Information laws show 208 complaints were made to Brisbane City Council last year about drivers who either refused, or failed, to pick up children.

As a result, 29 drivers were reprimanded after investigation of the complaints. Four of those drivers were dismissed. A further 102 cases were unable to be verified, or the statements made on behalf of the child and by the driver were conflicting so no action was taken. [So no penalty unless the driver actually ADMITS his actions???]

The Courier-Mail revealed last year that a 10-year-old girl had been told to get off the bus in Mt Gravatt because she did not have enough money, while a 14-year-old boy was left behind in Carina because the driver refused to break a $20 note. In both cases the driver was disciplined. [How?]

The cases breached the strict "no child left behind" policy for bus drivers across the southeast, which states that no children should be refused entry to a bus regardless of whether they have sufficient money for the trip.

There were 6670 complaints in total made last year about driver behaviour, including 1260 for rudeness or aggression, 249 for using an incorrect route, 33 for smoking and 25 for discriminatory behaviour.

BCC said that, of the complaints involving children being left behind, 12 were found to be because the driver took the incorrect route and 24 were because the bus was full. In 27 of the cases, the driver was found to have acted correctly.

Public and Active Transport chair Margaret De Wit said BCC took reports of children being left behind very seriously. "Everyone makes mistakes, but we take a very dim view of any driver making these sorts of mistakes - that's why we are very thorough in these investigations," she said.

"Our operators receive very extensive training, which repeatedly addresses the issue of not leaving children behind. They get presentations, they watch movies, they get issued copies of manuals they must have with them, induction class goes through it thoroughly and they get refresher training." She said the four drivers who had been dismissed were previously warned about their behaviour.

Opposition leader Shayne Sutton said it was disgraceful that any child was being left behind. "It's supposed to be council policy that no child is left behind at a bus stop," she said. "That is unacceptable and it must stop."


In critical condition: Corporate doctors' surgeries failing

MEDICAL centres statewide have been closed, sold, or hang in the balance despite a severe doctors shortage. But AMA Queensland says while it is concerned about the closures, running a general practice is a business venture that has to follow reality.

The Federal Govemment has promised 13 GP Super Clinics for Queensland in a bid to improve healthcare services around the state.

At the same time, corporate medical centres are collapsing, leaving patients and doctors in limbo. Queensland Medical Centre at Paradise Point on the Gold Coast, owned by now-defunct The Doctors Company, closed a fortnight ago, leaving sick patients without access to services and their records.

Other centres at Kawana Waters and Maroochydore were sold to Sydney operators. Centres at Beenleigh, Corinda, Inala and Toowoomba have sold while Redlands is still on the market.

AMA guidelines recommend doctors should notify patients six months in advance if they intend to close their practice so that they can obtain their medical records.

The Doctors Company administrator, Brent Khurina of Hall Chadwick, found debts of $9 million across almost 30 centres run by founding doctor Lawrie Clift. Mr Khurina said an investigation had now begun into the company, with an initial report submitted to ASIC.

The company had been struggling after the acquisition of more than a dozen centres. The most recent financial report found it posted a net loss of $245 million for the 2009 year. Dr Clift said he was unable to speak specifically about the collapse, but said healthcare delivery was made difficult by changing government rules.

While pharmacies can be owned only by pharmacists, medical practices can be owned by anyone. The AMA said a key problem was conflict between profit-oriented business and ethics-oriented doctors who work in centres. AMA Queensland offers courses to help doctors to successfully run practices. “The prime focus, as always is to make sure patients get quality care,” a spokeswoman said.

The article above by Mitch Gaynor and Suellen Hinde appeared (print only) in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 10 October, 2010

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