Jury’s time to decide

ON TRIAL: Kris Mitchison in front of Newcastle courthouse He is one of three people charged over the death of Stephen MacLeod. Picture: Jonathan CarrollA NEWCASTLE Supreme Courtjury has begun deliberationsas to whether Kris Mitchison, his mother Caron Anne Wells and friend Ricky Whelan should be held responsible for the death of Stephen MacLeod, 10 days after an altercation with him at a home in East Maitland.

Mr MacLeod, 50,passed away in John Hunter Hospital because of ableed in anartery in the back of his brain.

The trio have been charged with murder after they allegedly formed a “joint criminal enterprise” to bash Mr MacLeod at 4amon March 16, 2014.

The prosecution alleges the attack waspayback, after thetwo men arrived at the Kenneth Street home of Ms Wellsto find her “hysterical” and withtwo black eyes, pleading with them to remove Mr MacLeod from the house.

“What more do you reckon an innocent man would do?” was the question posed to the jury by Grant Brady,defence barrister for Kris Mitchison, as he began closing submissions on Tuesday.

He said his client enteredthe witness box even though he could have avoidedcross examination by an“exceptionally” experienced crown prosecutor.

Mr Brady said thecharacter evidence called during the trial had showed that Mr Mitchison was not aggressive or violent despite hisdifficult upbringing.

He said his client was anhonest man who would“call a spade a spade”and was even“trying to stamp out violence in his footy club.”

He admitted a plan to move Mr MacLeod along went “south”, but argued there was no evidence his client contributed to the injuries he suffered.

John Fitzgerald, the defence barrister for Ms Wells, was scathing of the evidence against her in his closing address.

He said he hadgrave misgivingsabout contradictions inthe testimonyofKaren Morris,a“linchpin witness”andneighbour of his client.

Ms Morris claimed she saw Ms Wells deliver an“evil” kick toMr MacLeod while he lay groaning on the floor.

Mr Fitzgerald criticizedher evidenceas“colourful” and“outlandish” when she described seeing Mr MacLeod two days later, with one eye bulging out of his head and his pupil“moving all about the place uncontrollably”.

Lost in flood of red tape

A developer who wants to revamp one of Maitland’s iconic buildings says rigid state government rulesare a deal breaker.

Inside the building.

George Prochowski (at left in image)owns the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street.But his plans to turn the city’s old newspaper headquarters into a restaurant andaccommodation at the front and residential apartments at the back have hit a snag that could leave the building unoccupied.

Mr Prochowski wants the residential units to consist of a loungeroom and kitchen downstairs and bedrooms on the second floor.However, state government conditionsprevent habitable spaceonthe ground floor, because it is below the flood level.

Mr Prochowski said he was unaware of the constraints when he bought the building and it would be a deal breaker for his development plans.

Lost in flood of red tape Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

Scenes from the interior of the old Maitland Mercury building on High Street. Pictures by Perry Duffin.

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Police suffer in state’s revenue-raising race

Safe zone: Too many drivers are punished for breaking the speed limits by small margins, says reader Steve Rayfield.

I DISAGREE with John Gilbert’s assessment that every driver who speeds is an idiot(Letters, 4/4). To me, the problem is in the notion that published limits are real world limits. If they was then a 110kmh zone would have drivers travelling at between 10kmh and 110kmh which would certainly cause mayhem.

In reality, a 110kmh zone means that all traffic moves at or above 110kmh.

Likewise all other limited zones. To have a punitive system where drivers of infinitely better braking, accelerating and handling cars with enormously improved passenger and pedestrian friendly features are heavily fined for exceeding limits set many years ago on roads that are better surfaced, safer and wider than when these limits were first imposed is simply unjust.

Yes, John, there are idiots on the road but they’re not those who exceed often stupid limits by comparatively small margins.

To me the real losers are the police because their reputation is damaged every time they sneakily nab someone drifting over the limit in a safe way. Our roads are not made safer by police hiding behind trees with hand-held radar. All that really does is lower the public’s opinion of the police force at a time when these hardworking, generally decent people increasingly need our co-operation and respect.

Have you heard about domestic violence,home invasions andthe ice epidemic? Fair enough, if you haven’t seen the fixed radar signs then you aren’t paying sufficient attention and perhaps should pay a finefor that butthe roads are littered with so many signs these days I wonder whether we’d all be safer if left alone to just look at the road.

Steve Rayfield,Warners BayMining isn’t for everyoneI WAS at the Knights’ Voice for Mininggame on Sunday. It was basically a day to promote the mining industry. To mark the occasion, the Knights chose to wear an orange and black strip. On the same day they played the West Tigers –very odd.

In any event, after multiple news reports in recent times of record autumn temperatures and massive coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, and even a suggestion that the earth’s axis has been altered by melting ice caps, it seemed jarringly ironicto be subjected to a barrage of propaganda before and during the game about the blessings of digging up billions of tonnes of coal out of the ground and burning it.

Perhaps the Knights could change their sponsor, and we could instead have a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority day, or a solar industry day, or an electric car day.

Or just a world survival day.By the way, go the Knights!

Michael Hinchey,New LambtonRoyal Newcastle HospitalNEXT Monday, April 18,will be 10 years since the Royal Newcastle Hospital closed and relocated as the Royal Newcastle Centre to the Rankin Park Campus at New Lambton.

A hospital had existed at the top of King Street since 1817 when Commandant James Wallis turned a jail into a convict hospital.

Several years after the 1989 Newcastle earthquake and the subsequent demolition of the York Wing, the 1914 North Wing was converted into 12 apartments. After 2006 all remaining hospital buildings on the site were demolished and today ‘The Royal’ site consists of several multi-storey apartment blocks, a hotel and restaurants.

The site’s historyis preserved in the name of the present apartment blocks – Nickson, Hannell and McCaffrey. A timeline with photographs is found on the wall leading to the lift from King Street to the Shortland Esplanade and an 1970s Newcastle City Council plaque in the footpath at the top of King Street.

Long may we remember the Royal Newcastle Hospital and the very important part it played in Newcastle’s history.

Suzanne Martin,NewcastleBetter safe than sorryALLAN Earl opines against the purchase of F-35 jets and new submarines because he can’t see any threat to Australia (Letters 11/4).

Neville Chamberlain thought the same thing right up until Germany invaded Poland.The UK prime ministerwas correct in thinking that Hitler wanted peace –a piece of Czechoslovakia, a piece of Poland, France and Russia.

Surely Allan is not naïve enough to believe that he doesn’t need to insure his house because he cannot see a threat to it?

China is reported to be already not producing enough grains to feed its people and I don’t believe that country will want to copy it’s 1950s record of 30 million dying of starvation.

Indonesia has a recent record of major food shortages and has a military strength of around 876,000 against Australia’s 104,000, including reserves.

Allan also complains about Australia following the US into wars.It will be a bit difficult to ask the US to assist us in any battle against a bigger opponent if we haven’t pulled our weight within the alliance.

Mike Sargent,Raymond TerraceShow us the figuresNEILAllen is correct in seeking our Newcastle Labor representatives to put public pressure on Premier Mike Baird to reveal the cost benefit analysis for not only the alternatives but the actual light rail plan (Letters, 11/4).

I also agree with Mr Allen that Mr Baird is actingin a manner that is a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to this issue. You only have to look at Transport MinisterAndrew Constance last week. He breezes into Newcastle to patronisingly totell us what they will do –we should think ourselves luckyand opponents can jump in the lake.

Well, we won’t jump in the the lake. Ex-mayor Jeff McCloy admits he was wrong in supporting the scheme initially, although he had strongly suggested to the government that buses were the real solution.

Respected long-term retailer Collin Scott essentially says the current plans area retailing killer,and that the trams should share the road with cars.

Finally ex-Liberal candidate Karen Howard has broken party links and criticised the government’splans.

I smelt arat when they so quickly removed the heavy rail but now there seems to be aninvasion of ratsand Iencourage our representatives to get more publicly active in demanding to see the cost benefit analysis so that we the taxpayers can see the whole picture.

Ralph Spring, Cardiff

Keep the cuts away from our Medicare health rebates

SLOGGED: The Australian Medical Association has warned that rebate freeze will result in a “co-payment by stealth”, with bulk billing rates plummeting.Access to decent, affordable health care for all Australians is a basic right – but achieving it has not been an easy fight.

The three central policy pillars that support Australia’s health system – Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and proper support for public hospitals – were all designed by Labor to help reduce inequality and the resulting adverse health outcomes that occur through disadvantage.In Australia, it’s your Medicare card, not your credit card, that should be the key determinant to accessing quality health care.

Unfortunately Coalitiongovernments have always been opposed to Medicare and this government is no different. In their two and a half years in office they have worked to constantly undermine our universal health system –$57 billion has been cut from public hospitals, including $155 million from Hunter New England Health hospitals that support our local community;$6 billion has been taken from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

And primary health care has been relentlessly pursued with multiple proposals to increase the cost to see your GP.Versions 1, 2, 3 and 4 of a direct GP Tax were shelved by the Coalition Government following strong community campaigns around Australia, including here in Newcastle.

But with the Government’s plans to save $1.3 billion by freezing the Medicare rebate, doctors will be forced to do what the Parliament has refused to do – slug patients with an extra fee to see their GP. We know from a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia that GPs would need to charge more than $8 for each patient visit to recoup income lost through the freeze.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has repeatedly warned that the rebate freeze will result in the introduction of a “co-payment by stealth”, with bulk billing rates plummeting around the nation.

December’s Budget update, released by Malcolm Turnbull, included another hit to the health system with $650 million cut from spending on Medicare rebates for pathology and diagnostic imaging.Tests and scans that are vital for detecting, treating, and fighting chronic disease and cancer.Blood tests, urine tests, pap smears and tests for STIs will no longer be able to be bulk billed and patients will be forced to pay upfront. The same goes for scans like MRIs and X-rays.

Under Medicare rules, any patient charged these fees will have to pay the entire amount upfront and then claim back a rebate later – and the costs are not inconsiderable. It’s estimated that patients may have to pay $93 for an X-ray and more than $30 for a pap smear. And if you are unlucky enough to require a PET scan to assess cancer or a brain disease, you could be hit with a cost of $1000.If you have a serious condition, where you need regular check-ups and tests you pay over and over again.

President of the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association, Dr Christian Wriedt, has called the cuts “simply bad policy”.The Chief Executive of Pathology Australia, Liesel Watt, has flagged the potential health dangers, warning that if patients have to pay for testsupfront, “they may think twice about getting their tests”, despite their GP’s advice.

Enough is enough.

If we want our health system to remain the envy of the world, a strong Medicare must be at the core.This Saturday, the Shadow Assistant Health Minister Stephen Jones and I will be at Gregson Park at midday to demand a stop to this constant undermining of Medicare.

Sharon Claydon, Federal Member for Newcastle

Our unions support social equality for all Australians

Fifty years ago building worker activists took back control of their union – the NSW Builders Labourers Federation – from a leadership clique that ignored the members.

Under the new leadership of Jack Mundey, the re-energised BLF created high standards for workplace safety, decent pay, union democracy, accountable leadership, community engagement and, most famously, Green Bans.

The Green Ban movement, which saved green spaces in Sydney from high-rise development, spread to Newcastle when East End residents approached the BLF for help.The success of this resident-BLF alliance can be seen today with Newcastle East’s unique mix of heritage buildings, low-rise development and social housing.

The proposed laws now being directed against the Construction Forestry and Mining Employees Union (into which the BLF merged)would make such an achievement difficult today.

The Liberal Party accuses the CFMEU of nefarious activities, yet simultaneously tries to downplay allegations of their own involvement in receiving donations from the building industry.

Expensive Royal Commissions and anti-union legislation are not required to sort out union problems.For example, in 2012 a new membership team, strongly supported in Hunter workplaces, won the leadership of my union, the Public Service Association.

The new team, the Progressives, didn’t need special legislation to deliver more democracy and accountability to members.

The real target of the Government’s anti-union laws is not the CFMEU, but the penalty rates and other conditions which allow workers – whether union members or not – to enjoy reasonable living standards and to live in neighbourhoods that are cohesive and socially equal.

Steve O’Brien, is a Progressive PSA activist who lives in Newcastle East

In the right company

TRIPLE TREAT: Little May’s Liz Drummond, left, will return to the Small Ballroom on May 7 this time as a headline act.THE last time Little May’s Liz Drummond was at theSmall Ballroom she climbed up a ladder to escape the crush and to get an unencumbered view of raucous rock band, The Drones.

Drummond might have been the wide-eyed fan that night last August, but on May 7 she will return to the Islington venue very much centre stage.

Plenty has happened since for the all-femaleSydney folk-pop trio.

Last October they released their debut recordFor The Company, which was pushed on by Triple J’s feature album treatment.

Drummond, 26, met vocalist Hannah Field 10 years at Hornsby’s Barker College where the pair dabbled in music, butthey were too timidto playbeyond the band room.Drummond later invited former school friend Annie Hamilton to play guitar to create Little May.

Little May – BoardwalksInitially the trio were a covers band. Again, that initiallack of self confidence made themafraid to unveil their own material publicly. Slowly they slipped originals into their set, before they finally embraced their own creations.

Even after a successful album and a preceding EP, which contained the beautiful single Boardwalks, Drummond remains nervous about Little May’s songs.

“As corny as it sounds it’s like you showing everybody the inner workings of your soul, which can be quite daunting,” Drummond said.

Little May are renown for their three-part harmonies and folk ballads, but For The Company could have been more reminiscent of their latest single, the garage guitar-basedRemind Me.

The trio recorded the album last year in a19th-century church in upstate New York withThe National’s songwriter Aaron Dessner.

“We went to the States with an album in mind before we met Aaron and I think it was more guitar-driven and a lot darker generally speaking,” Drummond said.“A lot of the songs were verging on the same theme or sound, which can be positive.

“In this case Aaron definitely helped to pull us back a bit.He offered a lot of restraint and embraced the subtleties in the music and itshowed his maturity too.”

Maitland honours city’s WWI battalion

HELPING OUT: Edgeworth coach Damian Zane talks to young players at a Newcastle Football coaching session on Tuesday at Wallarah Oval. Picture: Jonathan CarrollMAITLAND Football Club will celebrate the centenary of the city’s 34thBattalion with a day of Anzac matches on Sunday, April 24.

The Magpies will host Charlestown in under-17s, under-19s, under-22s and first grade at Cooks Square Park and will dedicate the games to all who have served in the Defence Force.

Men and women wearing service medals will enjoy free entry and a free barbecue.

The 34th Battalion, known as Maitland’s Own, was an infantry unit raised in 1916 from Coalfields towns and foughton the Western Front.

The day will also launch a 15-day post-season tour by the club’s under-17 side.

The tour will include matches in England and France, ending with a game inVillers-Bretonneux on December 7 against a German side, and visits to battlefields in France.The Magpies are seeking sponsors to help the 17 playersfund the trip.

** Former Hamilton Olympic striker Dave Hodgson has eight goals in six games to lead 2015 grand final winners Wallsend to the top of the First Division table.

Hodgson scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 win over Thornton last weekend while Belmont-Swansea slipped to second after a 0-0 draw against Toronto-Awaba.

** NPL coaches Damian Zane (Edgeworth), Steve Piggott (Maitland) and Rob Virgili (Magic)have joined former Socceroo David Lowe and technical directors Steve Bland (Jaffas) and Alex Tagaroulias (Olympic) in sharingtheir expertise with junior players from the Newcastle Football rep program this week.

The clinics are designed to give the under-10 to under-12 playersa taste of life at senior NPL clubs.


THEATRE REVIEWDisney’s Mulan JrYoung People’s Theatre,Young People’s Theatre, Hamilton (ypt.org备案老域名; 4961 4895)Ends May 21THIS is a bright and colourful telling of a classic story of a teenage girl in ancient China who defied the limitations placed on women by disguising herself as a man and becoming a soldier to prevent her elderly father from being draughted into the army.

The large young cast handle the fast-moving narrative well, with the songs often demanding brisk movements, as in I’ll Make a Man Out of You, which has an army leader, Captain Shang, training recruits.

The title character initially questions her abilities, with Melody Davies making her a poignant figure in the cast I saw as she looked into a water pool singing the questioning Reflection (Kaylia Roberson and Martha Reece also play the role). As the story develops, Mulan does indeed show her abilities, leading a team of soldiers who rescue the Emperor who has been captured by invading Huns.

The staging gives vibrancy to classic Chinese characters such as a quintet of Mulan’s ancestors who voice from a heavenly setting observations on the events below. And there is a good mix of comedy and reality in the amusing action of a dragon, Mushu (Ashley Davidson; Alexandra Ryba), the ancestors send to look after Mulan.

The actors playing the human characters also reveal their feelings in a light-hearted but understandable way, with Mulan’s father, Fa Zhou (Sam McIntosh, Stefano De Dona), told not to be worried when his daughter meets a matchmaker, saying, with gritted teeth, “I’m not worried – I’m terrified”.

Likewise, the uncompromising Captain Shang (Paul Battaglia, Thomas Traynor) reveals a marked change of feelings when he accidentally discovers that Mulan is a female.

The staging by a large team headed by directors Michelle Burnitt, Amy Hill and Chloe McLean ensures that the show is always eye-catching, with the different designs and colours of the costumes bringing out the status of the various groups and the events including a spectacular avalanche at a key moment in the story. And the changing nature of the songs in reprises, such as A Girl Worth Fighting For, initially delivered as the Chinese soldiers think of the girls in a mountain village, is often moving.

A money grab at play

FUNNY STUFF: Robert Comber, Ian Robinson, Lachlan Fairhall, Tanika Idstein and Dimity Eveleens, perform in Funny Money. Picture: Anne RobinsonWHEN homebound British accountant Henry Perkins opens what he thinks is his briefcase after getting off a train, he is startled to find that it contains more than 1.7 million pounds in used banknotes.

He had put the briefcase next to another one on an overhead rack and realises that the two were identical, with him picking up the wrong bag.

His work experience leads him to believe that the money belongs to a mobster and, as his name and place of employment are in his briefcase, he is fearful that the gangster will soon be pursuing him.

So Henry comes up with a plan to flee Britain that night, in company with his wife. But it’s his birthday and his wife has arranged a dinner party for him.That is just the first of many complications in renowned English playwright Ray Cooney’s comedy Funny Money.

Maitland Repertory Theatre is staging Funny Money for a three-week season from April 27, and the production’s Henry Perkins, Ian Robinson, who has an accounting background, says that Cooney has amusingly drawn on aspects of that profession.At the same time, Cooney, whose other comedies include Run for Your Wife and Out of Order, gets in a lot of amusing double entendres and actions, such as couples hiding under a blanket.

The other characters include Henry’s wife, Jean (Dimity Eveleens), friends Vic and Betty Johnson (Robert Comber and Tanika Idstein), who are dinner guests, an overly helpful cab driver, Billie (Bree Cunningham), two policemen – Davenport (Lachlan Fairhall), who is crooked, and Slater (Lee Dougherty), who abides by the rules – and a mysterious visitor (Frank Freeman).

The characters often find themselves pretending to be someone else, with Vic and Betty required to be visiting Australian cousins of Henry and Jean on occasions.And the complications include the appearance of a third briefcase.

The show is directed by Steve Ryan, who has shown himself to be a master as actor and director of this style of comedy.

Dimity Eveleens is impressed by Cooney’s skills in getting laughs and smiles from unlikely situations.Her Jean, for example, is a very staid housewife, whose quiet existence leads her to panic swiftly in extraordinary circumstances.

“She’s a teetotaller, but she finds herself increasingly downing alcoholic drinks as she makes up more and more things to cover difficult situations,” Dimity notes.

Funny Money opens at Maitland Repertory Theatre on April 27, at 8pm, then plays Friday and Saturday, 8pm, until May 14, plus 2pm matinees on May 1 and 8. Tickets: $22, concession $17. Bookings: 4931 2800; maitlandticketing老域名出售备案老域名/maitlandreptheatre.

Luke Lazarus’ nightclub rape conviction quashed, retrial ordered

Luke Lazarus leaves court after his appeal judgment on Tuesday morning. Photo: Peter RaeThe rape conviction of Sydney man Luke Lazarus has been quashed and a retrial ordered after the state’s highest court upheld his claim that the judge in his trial misdirected the jury.

Mr Lazarus, 24, had spent 11 months in jail over the rape of a woman in an alley behind a Sydney nightclub but was released in February after the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal granted him bail with a $50,000 surety pending the outcome of the appeal.

At that point the court left open the possibility of an acquittal but on Tuesday the three-judge appeal panel ordered a retrial.

Outside court Mr Lazarus said: “I’m looking forward to a retrial and I’m excited to clear my name in the future.”

His lawyers will apply to the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday to have his bail conditions varied.

He is currently reporting to Rose Bay Police Station three times a week and is not allowed to travel beyond Sydney. He is also not allowed to apply for a passport.

Mr Lazarus was convicted by a jury in February last year over the sexual assault of an 18-year-old woman in an alleyway behind the Soho Nightclub on Victoria Street in Potts Point – a club owned by his family.

Police alleged that, on the night in question, in May 2013, Lazarus approached his victim on the dance floor introducing himself as a part owner of the venue.

He then allegedly offered to introduce her to the DJ before saying instead they would go into a VIP area.

But he then allegedly took the woman to the laneway where he allegedly raped her before demanding she put her name in his phone.

A string of prominent people, including Waverley mayor Sally Betts, the honorary secretary of the Honorary Consulate-General of Greece in Brisbane, Tsambico K Athanasas and South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league club chairman Nick Pappas had provided references for Lazarus, unanimously declaring their shock at his conviction and vouching for his good character.

The court upheld Lazarus’ argument, made by Tim Game, SC, that District Court Judge Sarah Huggett misdirected the jury before they retired to consider their verdict on the issue of whether Lazarus believed the woman had consented to sex or not.

Judge Huggett had told the jury that it needed to decide whether there were reasonable grounds to believe that the woman had consented to having sex with Lazarus.

This direction was inconsistent with the law, Mr Game said.

Instead, the jury should have been told that they needed to decide whether the accused in fact had a “reasonable belief” at the time of the incident that the young woman had consented to sex.

Justice Clifton Hoeben, Justice Elizabeth Fullerton and Justice Michael Adams unanimously agreed the conviction should be quashed and a retrial ordered.

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