Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Aboriginal inmates '22pc and rising' of prison population

The Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health says new research is urgently needed to address the worsening rate of Indigenous incarceration.

The centre says Aboriginal prisoners represented 22 per cent of the national prison population in 2005, and the incarceration rate has grown by 12 per cent since then.

In the Northern Territory 80 per cent of all prisoners are Aboriginal and this rate is also rising, particularly amongst women.

The Centre's Mick Gooda says a prisoner health round-table in Canberra today aims to find new ways to keep Indigenous people out of prison.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Son loses appeal over parents' murders

A Sydney man charged with the stabbing murders of his parents 14 years ago has lost a bid to avoid standing trial.

Jeffrey Gilham is accused of killing his parents at Woronora, in Sydney's south, in August 1993.

Gilham applied for the charges to be stayed using the double jeopardy principle but lost.

In appealing against that decision, he argued there was an abuse of process.

Gilham had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his brother, who he blamed for killing their parents.

In his appeal, he argued he could not be prosecuted for his parents' murders because his earlier plea was accepted on the basis his brother was the killer.

But the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal has today dismissed Gilham's appeal on the grounds there was insufficient evidence at the time.

He will face trial in February.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Women plead guilty to murdering teenage friend

Two women have pleaded guilty to the wilful murder of a teenage girl whose body was found in a wheelie bin.

Jessica Stasinowsky and Valerie Parashumti admitted killing 16-year-old Stacey Mitchell in the Perth suburb of Lathlain in December last year.

Both women now face a mandatory life jail term when they are sentenced in the Supreme Court later this year.

They appeared in the Perth Magistrates Court via video link from prison today and were again remanded in custody.

They have never explained why they murdered Ms Mitchell, who was reported missing from her home several days before her body was found.

Three generations jailed over caravan park attack

Five members of a family have been jailed for up to nine years over the death of a man who was stabbed, slashed and chopped at a caravan park on the New South Wales central coast.

William Smith, 34, was killed in an attack involving hand axes, machetes and a samurai sword at the Kangi Angi caravan park in October 2005.

He was struck 18 times with the fatal blow piercing his lungs.

The New South Wales Supreme Court heard he was attacked after a trivial argument escalated between members of his family and three generations of the Jones family.

Both had gathered weapons for an anticipated fight, including machetes, swords and iron bars.

Five members of the Jones family have been jailed for between seven-and-a-half and nine years for manslaughter.

A sixth family member was released on a good-behaviour bond for being an accessory.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Farquharson to be sentenced

Convicted child killer Robert Farquharson is to be sentenced in the Victorian Supreme Court, for the murder of his three children.

Farquharson, from Winchelsea, has been found guilty of drowning his three sons, aged ten, seven, and two, by driving them into a dam on Father's Day in 2005.

Prosecutors say he deserves life in prison with no minimum term.

But the defence has asked the judge to impose a sentence of between 20 and 30 years.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Mother who threw baby convicted of manslaughter

A young mother has been found not guilty of murdering her baby daughter, despite admitting she caused the infant's fatal injuries.

Six-month-old Crystal Peters had a fractured skull, bleeding on the brain and a broken arm when she died in August last year.

A Supreme Court jury in Adelaide has found the baby's mother Sarah Michelle Peters, 21, of Seaford, not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

Chief Justice John Doyle has thanked the jury and said he agrees with the verdict.

During the trial, Peters admitted she lost control when her daughter would not stop crying.

She threw the child across a room toward a bed, but the infant skidded off and hit the floor with a thud.

Outside the court, husband Robert Peters said he felt justice had been done and that his child would now be at peace.

Friday, 2 November 2007

On a dusty morning, our tiny Lake Angel finds peace

HIS sobs rang across the red, parched graveyard. "That's my son, my baby," moaned Paul Shillingsworth, as the tiny white coffin was lowered into the ground. "Don't worry, your Dad loves you."

Two-year-old Dean James Shillingsworth was laid to rest in his father's home town of Brewarrina yesterday, a fortnight after his body was found dumped in a Sydney lake.

His mother, Rachel Pfitzner, 26, has been charged with his murder. Her family did not attend: they held a private memorial service in Campbelltown.

Several hundred people gathered in the central western town's community hall, including many who had made the journey from Sydney and Tamworth. They included Paul Shillingsworth and his brothers and Dean's grandmother, Ann Coffey, who was his legal guardian.

Dean's aunt, Sharon Dykes, delivered the eulogy. "How can you talk about a lifetime with someone so small?" she asked. She said the family was feeling shock, disbelief, and anger as well as compassion.

But they were starting to accept his death. "This morning his spirit is here with us in the hall," she said. "And his spirit touches each and every one of us."

Another aunt read a message from Dean's half-sister, who had met her little brother only once. "I know he will always be watching over me," she wrote. "When I look up to the night sky I know Dean's will be the biggest and brightest star in the sky."

At the end of the service, Dean's father laid his head on the coffin and wept. His family followed the hearse in a procession through town to a dusty, windswept cemetery on the outskirts of town.

Shops along the main road closed and their staff stood outside as a mark of respect. There, Mr Shillingsworth and his brothers took off their crisp, white shirts and draped them over the coffin to create a blanket for the little boy.

Dean's was the third funeral in a week for Brewarrina. One young man died of a heart attack, and an older woman died of cancer. "We have more funerals than we do weddings around here," said one local.

"Bre", as the locals call it, is small. There are one pub, one RSL and an old Greek cafe, decorated as it was when it opened in 1926.

It is reputed to be rough, but has calmed since the Aboriginal community worked with police to agree to curfews on alcohol sales a few years ago.