Sunday, March 23, 2014

Club owner speaks out about the night Virgil Power king-hit Michael Halbauer

The thug was let off without a recorded conviction so it would not stop his legal career

THE owner of the club where a young member of a Queensland legal dynasty king-hit a patron is furious the attacker walked free after committing the most random violent act seen at the establishment.

CCTV footage showed Virgil Macquarie Power, 29, throwing a drink on Michael Halbauer and then flooring him without warning at Laguna Jacks bar at Noosa in September.

Magistrate Bernadette Callaghan sentenced Power to 240 hours’ community service and took into account the “remorse’’ shown by paying the victim’s $24,000 medical bills. This was to repair serious damage to his face and teeth.

Laguna Jacks owner John Whimpress told The Courier-Mail Virgil Power Jnr had only bought two drinks — the second of which he threw on his victim — before the violent punch.

He said he was unaware of any incidents between the pair leading up to the attack.

Although Magistrate Callaghan found Powers had been intimidated by Halbauer earlier in the evening.

Mr Whimpress and his staff were “devastated’’ by the magistrate’s decision and feared it sent the wrong message. “It was the first time we had seen this type of attack. We had heard about them elsewhere, but not here,’’ he said.  “We’re very upset with the result. We don’t think it acts as a deterrent.

“Customer safety is paramount for us and we have a great relationship with police and liquor licensing. We all work hard to keep people safe and prevent things like this happening.’’

Mr Whimpress said he was unaware of any confrontation or incidents involving the men leading up to the clash and Power had shown no signs of intoxication.

“Nothing viewed by staff or customers showed Virgil Power Jnr was a threat to anyone. He had only bought two drinks and the second was the one he threw at the other guy before he hit him.

“We can’t understand why it (the king hit) happened.’’

Mr Whimpress said Power had been in the club on previous occasions without incident.  He said his victim was a visitor.  Virgil is now banned and has not been back.  “We need to send a message that this type of behaviour is not to be tolerated, whether it be at a club, pub, wedding or wherever.’’

Manager Rod Hambrook was behind the bar when the attack happened and rushed to Mr Halbauer’s aid.  Mr Hambrook said the young man was groggy and completely confused.

“He seemed a nice kid. Here on holidays and having a night out. I got him up. Helped him get clean and took him to the hospital. I also rang the police.

“I like to keep an eye on people, but hadn’t previously noticed the guy who got hit.  “I had noticed Virgil. I had seen his face a few times before, but it was more that he was tall and seemed to be known by others in the club. He was mingling.’’

Mr Hambrook said he had since examined the footage of the night and noted the victim had been in the club about two hours and Power about an hour and a half.

He said he had only seen the two men pass by each other on one occasion, but did not seem to acknowledge each other.  “From what I could see there was no altercation earlier on.  “Our guards are very vigilant and noticed nothing untoward.’’

Mr Hambrook said he had been shocked by the incident.  “Talk about a coward’s punch. I have never experienced anything like it. What makes people think they can do this to others and get away with it.’’

Virgil Macquarie Power works as a law clerk for his father Virgil Alexander Power at the Noosa law firm, Virgil Power and Co. When The Courier-Mail visited the office yesterdayand contacted it again in the afternoon, reception staff advised both were out of the office for the day. A request for an interview was unsuccessful.


Stubborn  Muslim gets kid glove treatment

A FATHER who was indefinitely jailed in Queensland three months ago for ignoring an order to return his young daughter from overseas has been released from prison.

Federal Circuit Court Judge Margaret Cassidy said it would be futile to continue the indefinite sentence, although the father had done nothing to bring back the Australian child.

The father took his daughter overseas almost two years ago, without the consent of the mother, later returning on his own to Australia, where he has permanent residency.

He has since obtained an overseas custody order that allows the girl to live in the other country, which is not a party to The Hague Convention.

Judge Cassidy said the Australian-born child now was likely to remain overseas, with the mother and daughter unlikely to have any opportunity for a relationship.

“I do not know where to begin to express the pain I hold in my heart,” the mother said in a victim impact statement.  “There is not a single day or moment in a day that goes by that I do not have a thought for my daughter.”

The court heard the father believed the mother had committed a morally reprehensible act by marrying a younger man and he needed to protect his daughter from the situation.

The father told the court if released he would go back overseas to look after his child and bring her back to Australia. But Judge Cassidy said she did not have any great confidence that he would return.

She told the father that in this country parents had equal shared responsibilities when it came to parenting.  “One parent can’t decide to have a child living in (the overseas country) against the wishes of another parent,” Judge Cassidy said.

The mother’s lawyer, Adam Cooper, asked Judge Cassidy to give the father a fixed prison term of up to 12 months. He said the ­father had expressed no regret for the mother’s suffering.

“In my view, he has no understanding of the impact it may have on the child and the mother if they are not to spend time together,” the judge said.

She ordered the father’s release from jail last Friday, deciding the three months he had spent in jail were sufficient for the breach of court orders.


Violent Abo attacks Qld bus driver

POLICE are searching for a man who viciously assaulted a bus driver in Southport this morning ... and it was all over a fare.

The man, described as wearing no shirt, grey board shorts and carrying a black backpack was captured on camera dragging the 63-year-old driver out of the bus on to the ground and punching him in a vicious attack at a bus stop at the corner of Nerang and Pohlman Streets.

Detective Acting Inspector Paul Austin says the attack occurred about 8.30am when the passenger boarded the bus and tried to pay with a pre-paid travel card, or GoCard, which didn’t have any money on it.  The culprit then tried to pay with a $50 note, but the 63-year-old driver did not have sufficient change.

“There was an attempt at payment, however we do believe there was an escalation of his language, of his demeanour, which then became violent,” Insp Austin told reporters.

The driver was taken to hospital with bruising and cuts to his face.

Insp Austin commended the driver for getting up once he was being assaulted and moving towards the door so other passengers on the bus were not in the firing line.  “However, that did mean that the assault continued ... and he received further assault on the footpath,” he said.

Video of the incident shows the driver being dragged on the ground outside the bus while being kicked by his attacker.

The culprit is thought to be in his late teens or  early 20s, has a dark complexion, a medium build, tattoos and sports a mohawk hairstyle.

A nearby business owner said the man involved is a known local in the area and was seen arguing with the bus driver.  "I think he tried to pay his fare with a $50 or $100 note and the bus driver might have said no,” the witness said.  “Next thing he was out of the bus and picked up his things which had fallen out of his bag.  "Then he walked across the road and down Pohlman Street.”
Witnesses described the man as in his late teens or early 20s with short, spiky hair.


No escape from bat colony that terorises Maclean residents

Greenie priorities rule

ENVIRONMENT Minister Robyn Parker has refused to help get rid of a bat colony that has terrorised a north coast town and sent locals batty.  Outnumbered by bats 100 to one, Maclean residents have pleaded for Ms Parker to “choose humans over bats” — fearing that bat-borne diseases like rabies, hendra and lyssavirus could harm their children and grandchildren.

The state government and council have been ­accused of threatening local residents and wasting millions of dollars on working groups and reports.  More than 300ha of swampland was bought in the hope of moving the bats there, but that failed as well.  Licences to move bats on have tight restrictions protecting red and grey flying foxes.

Ms Parker yesterday refused any cull or extermination of the bats. “That would be illegal and we have no advice that it would be safe or effective.”

Brian Johnson, who has a property next to the bat colony, said he was threatened with a fine after trying to scare off the bats using a stick and a bin. Others have used the noise of chainsaws and car horns to try to move them on.

“I just can’t see why the politicians don’t choose humans over bats — I’d like to see them live here. I’m sure they’d change their tune pretty quickly,” Mr Johnson said.

Darryl Graney lives on the corner of Jubilee and Cameron Streets, nearest the bats, and said his car was regularly covered in droppings. At its worst, 250,000 bats roost ­opposite his home.
Clarence Valley council this week voted against buying 50 houses bordering the bushland for $15 million, after locals struggled to sell their homes.

Mayor Richie Williamson said the bat problem was the state and federal governments’ responsibility.

In 2010, teachers at Maclean High School threatened to walk off the job after being forced to wear raincoats and carry ­umbrellas to avoid bat faeces.

Ms Parker’s spokesman said “a multi-agency and stakeholder working group” had been set up by her department.  “There is a risk that dispersed bats will simply relocate to a nearby area,” he said.


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