Assault figures down before lockout laws

Sydney’s assault rate has continued falling since the introduction of lockout laws but it’s not clear whether the two are linked, a leading crime expert says.

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The decline in non-domestic incidents both generally and in relation to licensed premises was well underway before last February’s new laws, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research deputy director Jackie Fitzgerald says.

However, the bureau is yet to finish analysing data to figure out whether the decrease is just a continuation of the pre-existing trend or a consequence of the laws.

Ms Fitzgerald made the comments while addressing industry delegates during a panel discussion at Sydney’s three-day Electronic Music Conference in Kings Cross on Thursday.

Much of the session focused on the impact of the laws, instituted following the violent deaths of two young men on the popular entertainment strip – Thomas Kelly in 2012 and Daniel Christie last New Year’s Eve.

Independent state MP Alex Greenwich told the audience he opposed the lockout laws largely for the rushed way in which they came through.

“We were actually brought back from a holiday break to come to parliament to vote in these laws without any consultation,” he said.

“The sector had not been consulted, the live music industry had not been consulted, the venues had not been consulted, the local councils had not been consulted.”

Mr Greenwich said if the government had worked with venues to implement the laws over a period of time, businesses would have been able to adjust.

He said he would like to see the 1.30am lockout gone and 3am last drinks kept in place, with the lockout used as a penalty against venues not practising responsible service.

Marketing manager of Kings Cross’ World Bar Clint O’Hanlon said the venue had lost about 20 per cent turnover in the first week of the lockout.

“It happened so fast we had a hard time flowing with it. I’m sure if we had a bit more lead time we probably could have future-proofed a little better,” he said.

Female prisoners work together to overcome past trauma

Female prisoners are being trained to handle the ongoing effects of trauma as part of a new push by the NSW Government.

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The Trauma-Informed Practice Training program, specifically designed for Corrective Service staff struggling to assist traumatised inmates, was launched in Sydney on Thursday.

The program aims to help female prisoners manage their emotions, often brought on by traumas of the past, such as sexual abuse.

Ninety per cent of Aboriginal women and 82 per cent of non-Aboriginal women in prison have been sexually abused at some point in their lives.

One inmate at Silverwater Women’s Corrective Centre told NITV News that her six year sentence was a result of such abuse.

“I have been raped, only once,” she said.

“My step sister, she used to go out and hang with all the older men and one night someone broke into my mum and dads house and he thought I was my step sister. I was only 11.”

The 30-year-old Bundjalung woman said offenders would rather confide in their cell mates than staff.

“A lot of them are going through exactly the same pain as what I’m going through,” she said.

“They don’t trust many people or the inmates or the officers, but they know that whatever they tell me I keep to myself.”

But those inside may not have the skills needed to effectively treat inmates before it’s too late.

“I’ve found them in showers or I’ve found them in their rooms on their bed bleeding out but I don’t have training in that,” she said.

“I’m still going in there and helping them, because they’re my mates and they are like my family, because I’ve been in here for so long and prison has become my home.”

The training package will also allow staff to develop their cultural awareness skills and build trustworthy relationships with female offenders.

NSW Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Brad Hazzard said the training program, which will target both staff and inmates, would aim to break the cycle of abuse and incarceration.

Mr Hazzard said the latest training program will reduce the rate of reoffending and imprisonment

“This package is about informing them, educating them, empowering them and hopefully it will be a better outcome for the officers and the inmates,” he said.

“What this is seeking to do is go back to the cause, back to what’s actually brought them back into the system so they realise there are other positive pathways out there.”

Successful knee surgery for de Villiers

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers on Thursday underwent successful surgery on the left knee he injured in the final Test of the season against Wales, the South African Rugby Union confirmed.

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De Villiers, 33, had a full reconstruction of the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments with an artificial graft, as well as a repair of the medial collateral ligament.

“The procedure went well, but at this stage it is difficult to determine an exact return to play time-frame,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.

“The use of an artificial graft should speed up his rehabilitation and hopefully increase his chances of making a successful return to the playing field.”

De Villiers, who now faces a race against time to be fit for next year’s World Cup, said: “My focus will now be on the arrival of our third child in the coming days.

“Thereafter it will be about recovering as soon as possible so I can start with my rehabilitation. I still have my sights set on going to next year’s Rugby World Cup and will do everything in my power to get to England.”

De Villiers was stretchered off the field in the 58th minute of the Springboks’ 12-6 defeat by Wales in Cardiff on Saturday after twisting his left knee and dislocating his knee cap.

The Springbok veteran returned to South Africa on Monday and was assessed by an orthopaedic surgeon in Cape Town, who advised that he needed surgical reconstruction of the knee.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has described the injury to De Villiers as “an unbelievable setback” ahead of the World Cup in England, which starts in September.

Jessica Silva found guilty of manslaughter for stabbing abusive ex-partner

After suffering years of domestic violence, Jessica Silva has been found guilty of killing her estranged partner on Mother’s Day in 2012.

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Silva began crying and hugging supporters in the minutes before they learnt a verdict was about to be delivered following five anxiety-ridden days of deliberation.

When her father Avalino accused the victim James Polkinghorne’s mother that “you could have stopped this”, it was Silva who came to her defence and asked for everyone to remain calm.

But her demeanour began to crumble when for the first time, the 24-year-old was asked to sit in the dock.

As the jury found her not guilty of Mr Polkinghorne’s murder, but guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter, Silva put her face in her hands and slumped forward.

Cries turned to screams as she lay down in the dock, sobbing and hyperventilating.

But she eventually calmed down as Justice Clifton Hoeben said he would continue her bail and he was considering a broad spectrum of sentences, including a non-custodial term.

Silva was accused of stabbing Mr Polkinghorne, 28, up to five times in the head and torso during a tussle outside her family home in Marrickville, in Sydney’s inner west, on Mother’s Day in 2012.

She pleaded not guilty on the basis of self-defence.

Over the course of her trial, the court was told that Silva’s four-year relationship with Mr Polkinghorne had been marred by physical and verbal abuse, including an incident in which he allegedly head-butted her.

The 24-year-old repeatedly broke down as the court was played phone conversations in which her estranged partner abuses and insults her, before threatening to “cave her face in”.

In one text sent to Silva on the day he was stabbed, Mr Polkinghorne wrote: “I hope your mother gets poisoned by the flowers that you give her and you get gang-raped.”

Later that day, Silva made a series of frantic phone calls to her brother Miguel saying: “He reckons he’s gonna come and kill me.”

After Miguel tells her to call the police, she replies: “Don’t worry I’ll f***ing stab him myself.”

The court heard Mr Polkinghorne had been dealing and taking the drug ice, and had become increasingly paranoid leading up to his death.

When Mr Polkinghorne arrived outside the family home that night, a tussle broke out between him, Silva, Miguel and their father, Avalino.

Silva went back into the home, grabbed a knife and then returned and stabbed him.

Silva’s barrister, Gregory Scragg, said all she had ever wanted was for Mr Polkinghorne to stop hurting her.

She will be sentenced in February.

Kmart second retailer to pull Grand Theft Auto

Kmart has followed fellow retailer Target’s lead in pulling R-rated video game Grand Theft Auto V from shelves.

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The company said on Thursday that all titles in the series would be removed immediately “following a significant review” of their content.

“Kmart apologises for not being closer to the content of this game,” a representative said in a statement.

Target announced on Wednesday that it would stop selling the game after the company was named in an online petition criticising the game’s depictions of sexualised violence against women.

Kmart was not named in the petition, which has secured more than 44,000 signatures after appearing on the site change广西桑拿, on Saturday.

Target General Manager Corporate Affairs Jim Cooper said the decision was made following serious community concern over the game.

In a statement Mr Cooper said, “We’ve been speaking to many customers over recent days about the game, and there is a significant level of concern about the game’s content.”

The decision sparked an immediate backlash by fans, taking to Facebook and Twitter and flooding Target Australia with messages of frustration.

“We’ve had customer feedback in support of us selling the game, and we respect their perspective on the issue,” said Mr Cooper.

The decision to pull the game comes after a change广西桑拿, petition started by three women who said they’ve survived violence.  

Nicole, Claire and Kat, who didn’t give their last names, said the petition had attracted more than 40,000 supporters.

“It’s a game that encourages players to murder women for entertainment…the incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed… and now Target are stocking it and promoting it for your Xmas stocking,” the petition read.

Mr Cooper said Target will continue to sell R-rated video games.

“While these products often contain imagery that some customers find offensive, in the vast majority of cases, we believe they are appropriate products for us to sell to adult customers.”

 

NBA’s 76ers win first game of the season

The Philadelphia 76ers have gotten their first win of the season and avoided matching the NBA’s worst record to start a season.

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Michael Carter had 20 points with nine rebounds and nine assists, as the Sixers – coached by Australian Brett Brown – ended an 0-17 start, with an 85-77 road victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.

With the win, the Sixers will not have to share the record 0-18 start by the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets.

Thaddeus Young scored 16 points against his former team, Gorgui Dieng added 15 with 16 rebounds for the Timberwolves (4-13).

Elsewhere, Brooklyn edged past San Antonio 95-93 in overtime.

Mirza Teletovic had a season-high 26 points with a career-best 15 rebounds, and the Nets regrouped in overtime to snap the visiting Spurs’ season-high eight-game winning streak.

Houston downed Memphis 105-96, with James Harden scoring 21 points.

The LA Clippers 114 beat Orlando Magic 86, and Dallas scored a 107-105 win over Milwaukee.

Monta Ellis nailed the game-winning jumper at the buzzer to cap a 23-point effort against his former team, sending the Mavericks (14-5) to a dramatic road victory over the Bucks (10-9), who got a game-high 25 from Brandon Knight.

Kyle Lowry exploded for a career-high 39 points as the Toronto Raptors handed the Utah Jazz a seventh straight loss, while Chicago beat Charlotte 102-95.

In other games: the Washington Wizards whipped the visiting LA Lakers 111-95: the Boston Celtics dropped the visiting Detroit Pistons in overtime 109-102; the visiting Atlanta Hawks beat the Miami Heat 112-102.

‘Responsible budget’ key in Afghanistan

Australia has called on the new Afghan government to deliver a “responsible budget” to avoid future fiscal difficulties.

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High Commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer on Thursday attended a one-day conference in London where Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah outlined their reform plans.

Ghani and Abdullah were joined by prominent figures including US Secretary of State John Kerry, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“We have a government in Kabul that merits our confidence,” Mr Kerry told the conference.

“They can be confident of the support of the international community.”

Mr Downer said at the end of a “watershed year” it was fitting world leaders recognised Afghanistan’s achievements and reconfirmed their support.

“We welcome the reform agenda and the government’s commitment to accountability and self-reliance,” Australia’s high commissioner said.

“Prioritising this agenda will help to ensure its outcomes are achievable.

“We welcome the government’s commitment to stronger fiscal and economic management.

“Recognising the exceptional fiscal circumstances, Australia will bring forward $20 million in response to Afghanistan’s request for assistance.

“We call on the government to deliver a responsible budget to avoid similar measures in future.”

Mr Downer, Australia’s longest serving foreign minister as part of the Howard government, told the conference women and girls would play a central role in Afghanistan’s transformation decade.

Canberra welcomed the government of national unity’s commitment to women’s participation in all aspects of society, the high commissioner said.

“Australia will continue to help the government make possible better lives for Afghan women and girls.”

Australia has provided $1 billion in development assistance since 2001.

Mr Downer said a substantial program would continue through to 2017 and he announced a further $13 million to address humanitarian needs in 2015.

The conference was held as the US-led NATO force ends its combat mission in Afghanistan amid a spike in Taliban attacks against international targets in Kabul.

Most Australian forces withdrew from Afghanistan at the end of last year but about 400 personnel remain in a variety of advisory roles.

Bishop: Jail time for Australians travelling to banned Syrian province

Australians who travel to the heartland of terror group Islamic State in Syria without legitimate cause face up to 10 years in jail.

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In the first declaration under new counter-terror laws designed to deter terrorist tourism, the province of Al-Raqqa has been deemed off limits.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says the government is determined to stop Australians from supporting and engaging in hostile activities with listed terrorist organisations.

“Declaring Al-Raqqa province under the criminal code sends a strong message to those Australians who seek to participate in the Syrian conflict,” she said.

Ms Bishop is considering declaring additional areas where Islamic State (ISIL) is engaging in hostile activities.

Previously, Australians could travel to such conflict zones but, in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, they committed no offence under Australian law.

There are provisions to exempt people with a legitimate reason for going there, including journalists.

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It is part of measures aimed at keeping Australian ISIL supporters out of Syria and Iraq and minimising the risk of returned jihadists launching terror attacks.

Already 75 Australians believed to be in Syria and Iraq have had their passports cancelled. The government has refused to issue passports to another 10 planning to travel to the region.

In Al-Raqqa, the minister said, ISIL is murdering opponents, raping and enslaving women and intimidating and subjugating the civilian population to their brutal control.

“It is one of the world’s most deadly and active terrorist organisations and has been listed as a terrorist organisation in Australia under its various names since 2005,” she said.

Some 60 Australians are believed to be fighting with Islamist terror groups in Syria and Iraq, with the UN estimating about 200 foreign fighters join ISIL every month.

Labor backed this move on Thursday, but not the Greens.

Opposition deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said Labor was pleased to support this extraordinary measure of declaring a whole area a no-go zone.

“We are very concerned about the increasing numbers of Australians going to this region and the broader region to fight,” she said.

Greens Senator Penny Wright said the draconian move could catch innocent Australians overseas, criminalising legitimate travel.

“Anyone who travels to the Al Raqqa province, even under the listed exemptions, will have a very real legal challenge of proving that they went there for one sole purpose,” she said in a statement.

McLaren decision expected Friday

McLaren officials met on Thursday to discuss team arrangements for the 2015 Formula One season, but a spokesperson said that no decision had yet been taken about their driver line-up.

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Spaniard Fernando Alonso’s return after five years at Ferrari has already been confirmed, and McLaren must choose between Kevin Magnussen and former world champion Jenson Button to partner him.

Group chief executive officer Ron Dennis chaired a board meeting to discuss the matter on Thursday, but a spokesperson said: “No decision has been taken with regard to our 2015 driver line-up.”

British media reports suggest Danish driver Magnussen will get the nod, leaving Britain’s Button — world champion with Brawn in 2009 — to turn his hand to sportscar racing.

Speaking on the eve of Thursday’s board meeting, Button said he felt “really comfortable” despite the uncertainty about his future.

“It’s a weird time,” the 34-year-old told Britain’s Press Association. “It’s the end of the season, we haven’t got a race for many months, and I have had time to reflect on many things.

“The great thing is I’ve had my family and my mates round, so there have been a lot of people to talk to about it, to discuss. It’s been an important week, but a really good week.

“I’m now really comfortable, and whatever happens I will have a great year next year. New challenges are exciting, whether it’s in Formula One with McLaren alongside an exciting team-mate, or whether it’s elsewhere.

“So I’m good, but I just want to get it done. I want to hear the decision — as we all do — so we can all move on in whatever direction.”

McLaren are expected to announce who will partner Alonso on Friday.

Russia dismisses German TV doping claim

Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA told AFP on Thursday that they will wait for official censure from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) before investigating accusations made in a German television documentary.

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A 60-minute documentary called ‘Secret Doping Dossier: How Russia produces its Winners’, aired by German state broadcaster ARD on Wednesday, made serious allegations of doping in Russian athletics, pointing the finger at Russian Athletics Federation president and IAAF treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev amongst others.

However, RUSADA managing director Nikita Kamaev told AFP: “We have no real documents confirming these accusations.

“As long as there is no official request from the World Anti-Doping Agency into this matter, we consider this to be nothing more than wanton speculation.”

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko reacted angrily to the claims which he said were aimed at humiliating Russian sport.

“Based on some individual case, they want to show some kind of system and the state’s interest in it, to belittle Russian sport. Of course I don’t like this, because we have taken a journey in the opposite direction,” Mutko told R-Sport news agency, arguing that Russia has cleaned up its doping record.

The documentary featured hard-hitting accusations by 800m runner Iuliia Stepanova, who is banned until January for a doping violation, and her husband Vitali Stepanov, who worked for RUSADA between 2008 and 2011.

In a statement published on their website, WADA promised to “ensure that all matters raised are fully investigated.”

The statement added: “WADA has in fact already received some information and evidence of the type exposed in the documentary. All of that information has been passed to the appropriate independent body within the international federation, the IAAF. We will await the outcome of that independent body’s deliberations.

“Insofar as the particular allegations against Russian authorities and others are concerned, these will all be carefully scrutinised and if action is warranted, WADA will take any necessary and appropriate steps under the (World Anti-Doping) Code.”

The International Athletics Federation also released a statement, saying: “An investigation by the IAAF Ethics Commission is already ongoing with respect to some of the allegations made in the documentary.

“With regard to matters revealed in the documentary related to anti-doping and, therefore outside the scope of the Ethics Commission, these will be studied carefully and dealt with according to the relevant IAAF rules and in full co-operation with WADA.”

The International Olympic Committee released a statement saying they had been in contact with the IAAF and is ready to act if necessary.

“These are very serious allegations and the IOC will not hesitate to take all necessary steps,” said the statement.

“The IOC Ethics Commission has asked to be kept fully informed of any issues that could fall under its jurisdiction and for which future action may be necessary.”

The Russian Athletics Federation will make an “official statement” on the matter in due course, after a meeting to discuss “the scandal”, vice-president Vadim Zelitchenok told the Itar-Tass agency.