Friday, March 23, 2012

What do you have to do to get locked up in Victoria?

Leniency kills. Parole breaches should earn immediate incarceration

A SADISTIC killer who beat a young hairdresser to death on their first date was today sentenced to at least 19 years' jail. David Patrick Clifford, 30, was on parole and on bail when he killed Elsa Corp in a South Melbourne hotel room on February 1, 2010.

Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth told a packed public gallery in the Supreme Court that Clifford inflicted horrific injuries while subjecting Ms Corp to a “prolonged, vicious attack, going on for perhaps an hour or so”.

More than 50 members, friends and supporters of the Corp family were in court to hear Justice Hollingworth sentence Clifford to a maximum of 23 years with a non-parole period of 19 years.

Most cheered and clapped when the judge announced the maximum term, but Ms Corp’s parents, Andy and Gilly, said outside court later they thought the sentence was “not enough”.

Mr Corp, a former UK policeman, said he “felt sick in the guts to hear exactly what happened, and so disappointed that a human being could sink to that level”. “If you had a referendum now on hanging, I guarantee 90 per cent of the caring public, especially parents, would vote yes,” Mr Corp said. Mrs Corp said the sentence “was never going to be enough and he shouldn’t have been out of jail”.

Clifford had been arrested on three separate occasions while on parole before he murdered the 26-year-old hairdresser, who lived at home with her parents.

The case was one of several that prompted the State Government to call for an independent review of the parole system, which is due to be released tomorrow. The Herald Sun revealed last April that 11 Victorians had been murdered by parolees in less than 2 ½ years.

In at least three of the cases, Corrections Victoria and Victoria Police later admitted “procedural failures” may have contributed to the deaths by leaving offenders on the street despite breaches of parole. Clifford’s was one of the three cases where community corrections case workers knew parolees had been arrested over other matters but failed to notify the Parole Board.

Clifford was on parole after a drug trafficking sentence and on bail awaiting trial over a vicious assault at a bar when he killed Ms Corp. He had been released from jail only seven weeks earlier after serving a four-month sentence for a home invasion on an elderly couple – also while on parole.

Justice Hollingworth said the clear picture of Ms Corp from many victim impact statements provided to the court was that she was “a vibrant, friendly, enthusiastic young woman, who loved her life and was full of hopes and plans for the future”.

The judge said Ms Corp was 160cm tall and weighed 50kgs and would have had no hope of defending herself against the solidly built Clifford, who showed no emotion during sentencing.

Justice Hollingworth said there appeared to be no motive for Clifford’s terrible crime, which she accepted was not premeditated. She said Clifford, the eldest of four children raised in the northeastern suburbs of Melbourne, had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. He started drinking when he was 12 and adopted a pattern of binge drinking twice a week, to the point where he would black out.

He started using cannabis when he was 13, had a daily habit by 16 and when he left high school was using cannabis, ice, ecstasy, cocaine and LSD.

Justice Hollingworth said she sentenced Clifford on the basis that he was acting in a drug-induced psychosis when he murdered Ms Corp. “But I have still treated that as a serious aggravating factor, given that you knew full well that you were prone to paranoia and other psychotic symptoms – and to behave aggressively and violently – when drug-affected,” she told him.

Justice Hollingworth told Clifford she would have sentenced him to 27 years, with a non-parole period of 22 years, if he had not pleaded guilty.

She said he had some prospects of rehabilitation if he was able to overcome his drug abuse, but had not made the most of opportunities he was given by previous sentencing judges.

The court was told Ms Corp, who also had drugs in her system when she was killed, was attacked with a steam iron, a towel rail and glass from a mirror during the sustained attack. She suffered severe multiple injuries to her head and body and had over 60 cuts and lacerations.

Clifford set fire to the room before fleeing, then knocked down two pedestrians in separate incidents as he sped through the city while at times ignoring red lights and driving on the wrong side of the road. “In both instances, you drove directly at the pedestrians,” Justice Hollingworth said.

Clifford has been serving a sentence for breach of parole since Ms Corp’s murder. His murder sentence began nine days ago.


Time's up for thugs as state plans zero tolerance blitz

Will police catch them only to see them immediately let out again? Seems likely

VICTORIA could get a New York-style zero tolerance blitz to dramatically reduce violence and anti-social behaviour.

In a declaration of war against alcohol-fuelled thugs, graffiti and other vandalism, Police Minister Peter Ryan yesterday revealed he is examining new measures to make Melbourne and regional cities safer and more pleasant to visit.

He is going to New York to personally investigate how its crackdown cut street crime and made the subways safe to ride again - and is keen to bring the best elements of it back to Victoria.

New York's zero tolerance campaign included a heavy and highly visible police presence to tackle minor and major street crime, including muggings, drunken violence, prostitution, drug dealing and vandalism.

It also involved government and private organisations working together to fix problems as quickly as they arose, such as replacing broken windows, repairing cracked footpaths and removing graffiti.

Mr Ryan told the Herald Sun he wants to implement some of New York's radical reforms in Victoria.

"I think that some of the initiatives undertaken in New York are instructive for us,'' he said.

Mr Ryan also revealed other measures the Government is considering include:

USING protective service officers in Melbourne and regional Victoria to pave the way for some European-style railway stations so they become safe, vibrant shopping and entertainment hubs where you do far more than just catch a train.

CONTINUING the freeze on any new licensed venues opening beyond 1am.

SUPPORTING as many as possible of the extra 1700 police the Government is providing to be allocated to walking the beat in uniform and having a visible presence on Victoria's roads.

Mr Ryan's push for zero tolerance comes just weeks after the latest Victoria Police crime statistics revealed crimes against people soared by 9.6 per cent during the past year.

He said having more visible police in Melbourne and regional centres was a major part of his wider plan to win back the streets.

"I strongly believe that one of the great deterrents to anti-social and criminal behaviours is a police presence,'' Mr Ryan said.

"I strongly believe that if we are able to bring that presence to the streets we will have less criminal and anti-social activity.''

"But this is much more than just policing, this is about the community at large understanding that there is a responsibility shared by all of us in the way in which we conduct ourselves in our streets.

"Police have an important part to play in that, but, culturally, if people come to understand it is in their best interests to conduct themselves in accordance with all the laws then we will all be the better for it. "That is why the zero tolerance concept interests me.''

Mr Ryan has already discussed his New York mission with Chief Commissioner Ken Lay and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and is confident they are both "on board'' with his plans.

"I am not looking for one moment to interfere with police operational activity and I strongly believe that operational discretion is a very important part of what police do,'' Mr Ryan said.

"But as a culture in our community, the notion of zero tolerance, I think, has much which is of potential benefit for us and I am interested to see some of the initiatives that have been employed in New York.''

Mr Ryan said his trip to New York would include meetings with civic, business and police leaders.


Prime Minister Julia Gillard splashes cash to save Holden jobs

Australia making cars is an absurdity

JULIA Gillard has defended spending $215 million in taxpayer funds to prop up Holden, saying there was a real risk the iconic carmaker was about to close its Australian plants.

The Prime Minister did not rule out further bailouts for the ailing car-makers, predominantly based in southern states, saying there was an "ongoing program" for assistance.

"This funding is not a handout it is a strategic investment that will boost our economy, foster innovation, build new business opportunities and promote adoption of new fuel-saving and safety technologies," Ms Gillard said.

The federal funding is matched with smaller contributions from the South Australian and Victorian governments to ensure Holden stays in Australia for at least a decade.Holden had planned to close its Australian operations by 2016, which would see about 12,000 jobs lost.

The company's chairman, Mike Devereux, made no commitments about retaining jobs.

"If you can tell me what the Australian dollar is going to be seven, eight, nine years from now, what all of my competitors are going to do ... I might be able to tell you how many vehicles I would be able to produce and therefore how many employees I might have," he said.

The Opposition is divided on how to assist the car industry.

Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey suggested government funding should be cut but industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella said taxpayer funding was fine as long as it was clear where it was coming from.


Leftist politician slams politics of spending

FORMER finance minister Lindsay Tanner has attacked politicians, including his own former Labor colleagues, arguing that they are ignoring the national interest and handing out infrastructure funding "irrespective of merit" for political and not economic gain.

In comments critical of the Rudd and Gillard governments, as well as the Howard government, Mr Tanner declared the political milking of government spending had become worse over the past decade.

He told an Infrastructure Australia forum in Melbourne yesterday that government spending was inevitably compromised by having to dole out projects around the states on the basis of political expediency rather than providing infrastructure where it would generate the biggest economic returns.

"If you are financing national infrastructure, it's actually pretty hard to say: 'Well, the most nationally needed projects just happen to be in Queensland and Western Australia,' " he said.
Top 50 Tech Rec Coverage

"You are increasingly within a construct that says you have to spread the gravy around irrespective of merit, otherwise you (will) suffer politically . . . That's been there forever but is intensifying."

The federal government has often ignored the recommendations of it advisory body, Infrastructure Australia, sometimes giving the green light to projects the body had warned against.

In 2010, an Australian National Audit Office report found Labor handed $2.2 billion in taxpayer funds to eight infrastructure projects that its own adviser had questioned as economically unviable or "not ready" to proceed.

The report said six rail, road and port infrastructure projects announced in the 2009-10 budget, as well as two rail projects funded in the 2010-11 budget, had not made Infrastructure Australia's shortlist of priority projects.

Mr Tanner's comments came a day after eight Labor ministers, including cabinet members Anthony Albanese and Jenny Macklin, were reported to have awarded more than $8.2 million in grants in their own electorates without properly reporting them.

Auditor-General Ian McPhee on Wednesday released details of 33 cases over 2 1/2 years in which ministers violated Labor's anti-pork barrelling rules.

Mr Tanner, who retired from his seat of Melbourne before it was won by the Greens' Adam Bandt at the 2010 election, said politicians had to develop the courage to allocate costs, not just benefits: "Unfortunately, the principle on which our contemporary politics operates is that free lunches are the only thing . . . what it ultimately consists of is an endless process of pretending you are solving problems . . . because you don't want to upset anybody.

"You want to make sure every child gets a prize."

Mr Tanner laid some of the blame for Australia's infrastructure deficit at the feet of a public spoilt by long-term prosperity. "Prolonged prosperity ironically has reduced public willingness to accept hard decisions by government," he said. "There is less willingness to pay the cost of infrastructure through charges or taxes. We tend to take the view that if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

He said politicians were increasingly loath to spend money without asking how it would benefit them at the ballot box. "The tendency of politicians to milk the political benefits of government spending has intensified substantially over the past decade or so. That had led more and more to sub-optimal approaches to investment in infrastructure so anything that might actually be in the long-term national interest but doesn't produce substantial and serious short-term political benefits is always going to struggle," he said.

"Increasingly, the pressure is on for any substantial spend by government to deliver a big political dividend. By definition, that tilts the playing field towards consumer-based projects. Freight rail will be tricky, ports will be tricky."

During the height of the 2010 election campaign, Julia Gillard promised to fund the $2.1bn Epping-to-Parramatta railway line in Sydney, a project not then recommended by Infrastructure Australia and which did not rank highly on the state's infrastructure priorities. Mr Tanner said an increasingly white-collar workforce trying to live in ever more sprawling cities was another hard-to-reconcile infrastructure issue.

"Major cities are bumping up against the limits of supply for large monocentric cities," he said. "As urban sprawl has spread, the nexus between residence and employment has diminished.

"The transformation between blue collar to white collar has meant more jobs in the centre, but people need to live further and further out, which has exacerbated the transport problem, but that's by no means the only infrastructure issue."

He said he favoured a pay-for-availability model, as used to deliver the Peninsula Link road south of Melbourne, rather than making the private sector bear all the risk.

Mr Tanner said infrastructure bonds could be a good way to fund infrastructure in a way that was less sensitive to marginal seats, taking away the pressure from politicians to pork barrel.

Developing public private partnerships was a hard sell.

"PPPs have an image problem with the public," he said. "Which is unfortunate because they are a useful tool."


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