Saturday, December 17, 2011

When the courts are as guilty as the criminal

The courts have enabled this woman to keep attacking the elderly. They are her accomplices

ONE of Queensland's most notorious thieves has again escaped a penalty for a vile crime. Kim Scully received another tongue-lashing from a magistrate this week but in the end received a conviction and no further penalty for using her baby son's pram to steal the purse of a 63-year-old woman.

Scully has walked free of custodial sentence so often that one magistrate admitted he stopped counting. She is in jail today not because of the crime involving the baby's pram. Instead she is in custody for violating the parole she received after being convicted in June of other thefts.

Police have constantly vented frustration. Those feelings were best summed up by one senior police officer, who, after learning Scully was back before the courts, said: "She (Scully) could get away with murder."

Scully's 18-year criminal career has followed a pattern - most of her victims are older, frail and easily scared. Since her life of crime kicked off in 1993, Scully, who has had drug issues, has preyed upon up to 50 people aged in their early-60s to mid-90s. Almost all of her victims were out shopping when she went after them.

When the 41-year-old mother-of-four stood in a Brisbane court yesterday, it was as a person who has spent more time there than almost any other petty criminal. On some occasions Scully has stolen within hours of walking away from court.

Magistrate John Costello on Thursday said Scully had been given, and failed, more chances at probation than anyone he had ever seen. "I ... almost gave up counting (the number of) probation orders (and actually) gave up counting at 2010," he said. "It's a worry. (Scully) has a routine for picking her victims and they are elderly females."

Mr Costello said Scully's claims, during almost every court appearance, that she had learnt her lesson and was keen to rehabilitate were contradicted by her "five pages" of criminal history.

In March 2005, Sandgate magistrate Pam Dowse told Scully her behaviour made her "sick to the stomach". Ms Dowse made the comments while giving Scully two years' probation for stealing purses from three elderly women.

In June, District Court Judge Deborah Richards told Scully: "I'm not convinced you're really committed to your rehabilitation. "You've have had plenty of chances at probation ... and if you offend while you're on parole they (prison authorities) will ... (send you) straight to jail."

Judge Richards' comments came while sentencing Scully to two years' jail for stealing from four victims aged 75 to 84 in June and July last year, but she was immediately released on parole.

Scully's lack of respect for the courts and chances she has been given have been demonstrated by her pattern of reoffending within hours of leaving court - sometimes while still dressed in the same outfit in which she appeared before the judge or magistrate.

Last year The Courier-Mail revealed a heavily pregnant Scully had travelled to a Redcliffe supermarket and stolen from a 79-year-old woman less than three hours after Judge Michael Noud gave her yet another "one last chance". Judge Noud had told her: "I think you should be given another opportunity on probation to rehabilitate yourself."

On June 3 this year, Judge Richards showed her similar mercy by jailing her, but ordering her immediate release on parole. Less than a week later Scully allegedly struck again and was subsequently charged with a "dozen" offences and ordered to stand trial on eight separate occasions.

However, Legal Aid solicitor Kathryn Volk, for Scully, this week said police had dropped charges against Scully on all but one of those matters.


Queenslanders die waiting for public hospital treatment

TWELVE Queenslanders died while on hospital waiting lists or because their treatment had been delayed, an independent report has found.

The Health Quality and Complaints Commission analysed 337 complaints about access to healthcare received between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2011.

Its report, called "Why Are We Waiting!, found that one person died and seven people sustained permanent harm while on a waiting list.

Eleven patients died and 17 sustained permanent harm because of delays due to poor co-ordination of management within hospitals, such as incorrect referral, inappropriate triage or inadequate triage.

The report also found that 52 per cent of access complaints were about public hospitals, followed by general practice, 22 per cent, and private hospitals, six per cent.

Most complaints were made about health care providers in Brisbane, accounting for 43 per cent, followed by the Gold Coast on 12 per cent and the Sunshine Coast on seven per cent.

The commission's chief executive Cheryl Herbert says the report highlights opportunities for improvement, including better training for clinical handovers and triage practices.

"Failure to provide timely access to health services is one of the most significant barriers to quality healthcare, and can increase the risk of adverse outcomes for healthcare consumers, including significant deterioration of health, increased permanent harm or death," she said in a statement.

Premier Anna Bligh said Queensland hospitals were improving at a rate that was unprecedented in Australia. "We now have the lowest elective survey waiting times and emergency waiting times have improved at a faster rate than any other state," she said in a statement.


World class economy, first class prices

Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich

Australia’s economy is the envy of the world. No country has weathered the financial storms of the past few years as well as Australia. In global economic terms, down under is very much on top.

Such statements have become standard ingredients in ministerial speeches about Australia’s recent economic performance. To a degree, they are true. And yet ordinary Australians may well ask themselves why they cannot see the benefits of this apparent ‘miracle economy.’

One reason may be that Australia has become quite an unaffordable place if you make an average income, which is what most people do. Australia may well have a world class economy but we also have first class prices. Buying a house, doing the weekly shopping, or owning a car is far more expensive here than in other developed nations. At least for part of these price differences, government has to take the blame.

It may not always be apparent, but government plays a big role in determining the prices of products and services. Taxes are the most obvious price drivers: think stamp duty or the Luxury Car Tax.

But often, government’s influence on the price level may be more subtle. Restrictions on imports, bureaucratic requirements, and restricted land supply do not yield government revenue. From the consumer’s perspective, however, they are like an invisible tax.

The supply of shopping space is a good example. For retail newcomers, especially big chain stores like ALDI and Costco, it is difficult to enter the Australian market. A few large operators dominate the sector, and entry is difficult thanks to planning regulations.

The result is a market structure that favours landowners and incumbent retailers. It may sound incredible but retail space is more costly on Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall than on the arguably more prestigious Champs-Élysées in Paris. These costs are immediately passed on to Australian consumers.

There are many hidden price drivers with which government has made life unaffordable for ordinary Australians. Like the ridiculous prices charged for Australian editions of international literature or the price spikes in the banana market after Cyclone Yasi.

No doubt the Australian economy has performed well in the past decades. But for Australian consumers to benefit from this development, government needs to step out of the way and stop needlessly inflating prices.


Disability pension needs tough love

Jessica Brown

New data released this week confirms the rate of growth in Disability Support Pension, which has long been the social policy thorn in the government’s side, has peaked. Despite a range of measures introduced in July and September this year to make the pension tougher, the number of people on DSP is still growing.

CIS has long argued that growth in the pension must be stemmed. The federal government deserves praise for its sensible and incremental approach to reform. But piecemeal reforms focusing only on new DSP applicants risk exacerbating other problems in the income support system.

Measures to tighten entrance requirements will not encourage any of the 800,000 people already on the pension to move back into the workforce. In fact, they will increase the pension’s ‘lock-in’ effect.

New, tougher rules mean the disability benefits system is increasingly two-tiered. People already on the DSP enjoy ‘grandfathered’ status and pension level payments, while new applicants face far stricter rules and must survive on miserly subsistence-level benefits.

It is now more difficult for ‘borderline’ cases to transfer from unemployment benefits to the DSP. But work disincentives for existing pensioners are also higher.

The changing profile of disability pensioners makes this especially problematic. One-third of all recipients suffer from mental health problems, which are often episodic in nature. Yet the current system discourages them from testing their ability to work for fear of being subject to the new tougher rules.

Many people in their 20s and 30s will remain on the pension for life because the design of the system makes this the economically rational thing to do.

Changes to the DSP are a welcome and an important step. But taken in isolation, they will lead to knock-on unintended consequences.

Wholesale reform of the income support system is needed to remove the incentive to transfer between payments or stay for life on the DSP. The Henry tax review provides a good blueprint to achieve this.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Skanks with "drug issues" are fast becoming the new normal around here. They are surrounded by social and professional enablers and always get what they want because no-one has the guts (meaning the support) to stand up to them anymore. Some nights ED is just a cesspit of swearing, abusive 30-something women.