Monthly archives: July 2018

Jail for violent ice syndicate members who targeted vulnerable young

Aaron and Joshua Dalton in court.The head of a violent, organised ice syndicate that targeted vulnerable young people in country Victoria was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court on Wednesday.

Judge Michael Bourke jailed Aaron Shane Dalton, 32, of Wangaratta, for a maximum of nine years with a minimum term of six-and-a-half years.

Dalton pleaded guilty to trafficking a commercial quantity of methylamphetamine, known as ice, and ecstasy, as well as recklessly causing serious injury, reckless conduct endangering a person, false imprisonment and arson.

Judge Bourke described the case as a “truly cautionary tale” about the risk and damage of ice.

“Drug trafficking is seen as a major community problem,” he said.

“This overall drug enterprise was expansive and sophisticated. It not only trafficked large amounts of harmful, dangerous drugs to the north-east [Victoria] community, and often its vulnerable, but also conducted its business in a quite sinister way.”

The court heard that Dalton, once a promising cyclist who vied for a spot at the Australian Institute of Sport, descended into drug addiction and trafficking in his 20s and controlled a syndicate that used young people with no prior criminal history to its web across Wangaratta, Shepparton, Wodonga, Myrtleford, Yarrawonga and southern NSW.

The syndicate used violence and intimidation to control those both outside and within its web for almost a year until September 2012.

A young butcher was shot in his home, two homes were firebombed as children slept inside, a car was set alight and another run off a road and into a tree. There were numerous assaults as the syndicate wrestled for control and recovered drug debts.

Judge Bourke highlighted during sentencing on Wednesday the assault and interrogation of a young man in his home as Dalton hunted down a syndicate member who had left because of the pervading violence.

“The treatment of [name omitted] is in my view a chilling insight into the methods to which your criminal enterprise was capable of resorting,” Judge Bourke said.

The arrest of Dalton and eight others was the result of a Wangaratta police probe that investigated the syndicate.

Four of Dalton’s associates, including his brother and ex-girlfriend, were also sentenced on Wednesday after pleading guilty to their charges.

Aaron Dalton’s brother Joshua Dalton, 27, of Caulfield South, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison with a 15-month minimum sentence for trafficking a commercial quantity of ice and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Aaron Dalton’s ex-girlfriend Rebecca Howarth, 24, of Erina in NSW, was sentenced to a three-year community corrections order for trafficking a commercial quantity of ice and ecstasy.

Jai Trevor Montgomery, 26, of Wangaratta, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison with a minimum term of two years and nine months for commercial trafficking and arson.

Justin Huck Verry, 20, of Pascoe Vale, was sentenced to a three-year community corrections order for commercial trafficking.

Four other syndicate members were sentenced in October and November last year.

One of the key police investigators, Wangaratta Detective Acting Sergeant Jason Bray, said outside court on Wednesday that north-eastern Victoria had never before seen a drug syndicate operate with such violence and sophistication.

He said it had a wide effect on tight-knit communities and drew in and damaged young people who were mostly from good families that had never been exposed to criminal activity.

Detective Sergeant Bray said the sentences of Dalton and his associates was satisfying.

“I’m hopeful it will have some sort of effect or deterrence on those who want to get involved or are involved in this sort of activity and that this is the sort of result they should expect,” he said.

“The community in Wangaratta and around the north-east is pretty close and it’s a good place to live. These events don’t occur often here, so when they do occur we need to get on top of it and stop it. In this case, we were able to do that.”

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Suspended jockey Danny Nikolic charged with perjury over car accident

Jockey Danny Nikolic outside court after being charged with perjury. Photo: Eddie JimSuspended jockey Danny Nikolic has been charged with perjury after allegedly giving false evidence to a court over a traffic accident.

Mr Nikolic, 39, appeared briefly in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday, charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice, related to his appearance at Dandenong Magistrates Court on February 24 when he gave evidence about a 2012 traffic accident.

Charge sheets tendered to court on Wednesday allege Mr Nikolic “knowingly and falsely swore” to the magistrate in Dandenong that he was not driving his car when it was involved in an accident on March 9, 2012.

Mr Nikolic was cleared of dangerous driving charges earlier this year after he told the court his uncle, now deceased, was driving the car at the time of the accident, and that he was in the back seat.

Mr Nikolic, of South Melbourne, was bailed to return to court on September 15.

The champion rider, who won the 2003 Caulfield Cup on Mummify, remains suspended from riding in races until late next year.

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Bayside councillor James Long takes out intervention order against 68-year-old woman

A Bayside councillor has taken out an interim intervention order against a 68-year-old woman suffering from multiple sclerosis and emphysema, claiming she poses a threat to his personal safety and reputation.

Highett resident Sue Hardiman was shocked when two police officers delivered the court order on Monday night, which prevents all contact with Cr James Long or the publication of any material about him.

Cr Long, who received an award for bravery in 2000, has accused the elderly woman of involvement in the circulation of defamatory flyers to residents of the Bayside municipality.

“The respondent [Ms Hardiman] began a campaign to defame and destroy my reputation. The respondent has persistently made false accusations to myself and other councillors about me. The respondent regularly emails me wanting me to resign from my position,” Cr Long stated in the interim order.

Cr Long said he suffered from a post-traumatic stress disorder, after he received a national bravery award in 2000 after chasing a handbag thief and clinging to the bonnet of a getaway car.

But Ms Hardiman, who has battled multiple sclerosis for more than 40 years ago, denies any involvement in the circulation of defamatory flyers.

“I did not do that, I would never do that. I don’t believe in doing anything anonymously. You have to stand up and be counted and everything I’ve said about him, I’ve said to his face,” Ms Hardiman said.

She said the intervention order by Cr Long was an attempt to silence criticism of his performance at Bayside City Council.

In 2004, Cr Long launched a bid to become Melbourne lord mayor by riding a white horse to town hall carrying tea and honey and promising a “sweet and clean” fight. He was unsuccessful in his campaign.

According to his profile on the Bayside council website, Cr Long is a founding director of the Australian Bravery Foundation and the Australian Bravery Institute.

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Corruption watchdog investigates Transport Department

Victoria’s corruption watchdog is investigating allegations that senior staff within the transport bureaucracy corruptly set up private companies that later won profitable government contracts to deliver goods and services, in the first test of the Napthine government’s maligned integrity regime.

The “alleged serious corrupt conduct’’ the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating is said to have occurred over several years at the hands of an officer or officers of the state’s Transport Department and Public Transport Victoria. The commission will probe the alleged establishment by, or on behalf of, department staff “of businesses and companies that later secured contracts with DOT or PTV in the period 2007 to 2013”.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Fitzroy, relates to contracts for the supply and installation of bus infrastructure, the construction of railway carparks and related infrastructure projects, IBAC said in a statement.

The watchdog will investigate whether any government employees obtained financial gain from the contracts under question, in public hearings that will begin on July 21 and conclude by no later than August 8. Examinations will continue at a later date if necessary.

The examinations, to be held at the Victorian County Court, ‘‘will focus on one or more current and former employees, as well as the businesses contracts were awarded to’’.

The IBAC will investigate the adequacy of systems and controls concerning procurement, ‘‘including by detecting instances of officers of the Department of Transport and Public Transport Victoria providing benefits to themselves, their family, friends or associates and other conflicts of interest’’.

At issue is whether staff selected companies that would be given the opportunity to tender for department work and then awarded those companies contracts, as well as “any actual and potential financial benefits obtained by any such employees and members of their respective families and their associates”.

Terry Mulder, the Minister for Roads and Public Transport, would not comment but said the Napthine government created the IBAC “to independently and appropriately deal with these matters”.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure said it would “fully co-operate with the commission’s investigations”.

“We recognise the gravity of the allegations and would be extremely concerned about any behaviour or activities not consistent with public sector standards. We will not be commenting further until the hearings have concluded and the commission has detailed its findings,” she said.

Public Transport Victoria chief executive Mark Wild said: “We take these allegations very seriously and we are continuing to fully co-operate with the commission.”

Commissioner, Stephen O’Bryan, QC, will preside at the investigation. The IBAC was set up by former premier Ted Baillieu to investigate potential corruption committed by public sector employees, MPs, judges, police, local government and contractors.

Operation Fitzroy marks its first investigation since its establishment in 2011, which has drawn accusations from the opposition that the commission is a ‘‘toothless tiger’’ that must be overhauled and given ‘‘real powers’’.

The corruption watchdog must find prima facie evidence of an indictable offence before it can investigate corruption allegations.

Further details of the examination will be announced in mid-July, IBAC said.

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Victorian police hold 15-year-old boys after car chase in Bacchus Marsh

Two boys were arrested after a car chase and extensive search in Bacchus Marsh. Photo: Rob GunstoneTwo 15-year-old boys have been arrested after a police pursuit in Bacchus Marsh on Tuesday afternoon.

Police tried to intercept an allegedly stolen car on the road from Geelong to Bacchus Marsh about 3.30pm after the driver refused to pull over.

The car drove through a number of farm fences before pulling over in a paddock off Balliang Road. The driver and the passenger fled the scene.

An extensive search started soon after, involving the air wing, the dog squad and two off-road motorbikes.

The search was stopped at 10pm on Tuesday and restarted on Wednesday morning after a sighting of the teenagers near Brisbane Road. The boys were arrested at 10.30am.

They were being interviewed by police in relation to the alleged car theft and several other incidents in the area over the past three days.

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Murali teaches Nathan Lyon the carrom ball

Murali talks shop with Australian spinner Nathan Lyon. Photo: Cricket AustraliaThe great Muttiah Muralitharan, clad in an Australian team-issue shirt, has been teaching Nathan Lyon to bowl a delivery that can go the other way in a powerful demonstration of how old grudges have been discarded in Australia’s desperation to solve its spin problems.

Muralitharan, the most successful bowler in the history of Test cricket and the most famous exponent of the doosra, has been hired as a coaching consultant for the Test and limited-overs series against Pakistan in October.

His job will be to prepare Australia’s batsmen for the bewildering task of facing Pakistan’s doosra bowler Saeed Ajmal and to add a touch of mystery to the bowling of Lyon.

But he won’t teach the Australian Test spinner the doosra, instead focusing on the carrom ball that is practised by Indian off-spinner Ravi Ashwin and released with a snapping of the middle finger and thumb. It is easier to teach the carrom ball to a classical finger spinner such as Lyon.

“Doosra is very difficult to teach but we are trying something else, like carrom ball or something,” Muralitharan said from Colombo, where he has been working with Lyon and members of the National Performance squad.

“He was bowling last year very well, so there’s nothing to change much, only to give some confidence and try to teach the carrom ball. I think he will be ready to bowl a few balls in the UAE, but he will master it in the years to come.

“I am mainly a wrist spinner, so to change the wrist position is easy, but for a finger spinner to change direction to bowl a doosra it’s harder.”

The Sri Lankan magician was unequivocal in his support for Lyon in any format of the game.

“A country like Australia you don’t need many spinners, you need one. Nathan Lyon is the answer,” he said. “He spins the ball and he is confident and he has taken more than 100 wickets in Test cricket. Australia has to persevere with him and then build the back-ups.”

Murali’s recruitment is a dramatic sign of how times have changed.

Though liked and admired by many of his Australian opponents, Muralitharan was taunted by Australian crowds ever since he was called for throwing by Australian umpire Darrell Hair during the 1995 Boxing Day Test.

Muralitharan, who overcame constant scrutiny and testing to take 800 Test wickets, said those times were long forgotten. Australians have further warmed to the smiling son of a Kandy biscuit maker since he joined the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League.

“I don’t have any hard feelings because of what has happened,” he said. “I think I prove myself in various formats … that I don’t do anything wrong. So it’s all about playing cricket and enjoying, and what I can teach is good for the game of cricket.”

His hiring is also a sign that Cricket Australia is going to great lengths to avoid more results like last year’s four-nil Test series loss in India.

Australian cricket has wrestled with the moral implications of teaching young off-spinners the doosra, preferring to encourage orthodox actions. Former national selector John Inverarity previously described this as “a question of integrity for Cricket Australia”.

There is no suggestion CA has changed its stance on the doosra, only that with one third of its cricket played on the subcontinent, it is serious about improving its performances with and against spin.

“Muttiah Muralitharan is a true great of the game and his involvement with the Australian team will bring enormous benefits,” said Australian coach Darren Lehmann.

“He really understands the conditions we’ll face and will be able to impart a great amount of knowledge. Not only will he help guide our spinners during that tour, but he will also work with our batsmen to help them prepare to play Pakistan’s dangerous spin bowlers.”

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The signs are good at Tinonee

A Tinonee student has been announced as a joint winnerin Greater Taree City Council’s recent Design a Sign competition.

Acting Mayor Councillor Robyn Jenkins and Hayley Kluin from Tinonee Public School with Lakita O’Connor in background.

Earlier this year council called for entries from local primary schools to design a sign in conjunction with council’s “Protecting the Health of the Manning” project, which is being funded through the NSW Government’s Estuary Management Program.

The aim of the competition was to convey to the community through a child’s eyes the value of a healthy river system and the need to protect it.

More than 130 entries were received from local primary schools including Mitchells Island, Old Bar, Upper Lansdowne, Tinonee, Wingham Brush, Hallidays Point, Taree West, Cundletown and St Josephs at Taree.

Hayley Kluin from Tinonee Public School and Lakita O’Connor from Mitchells Island Public School were selected as joint winners of the competition. Both entries were well designed, and included colourful graphics and catchy logos.

Acting Mayor Councillor Robyn Jenkins, congratulated the winners at council on Thursday and presented them both with a $100 gift voucher from Manning Valley Books.

The winning artworks will be displayed on signs at popular access points around the Manning River – the signs will be erected next month.

The works by competition finalists will be displayed in the foyer of council’s administration centre over the next two weeks.

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New restrictions on AFL club runners

Fremantle runner Shaun Tinsley twice conceded free-kicks for being too close to the play on May 17. Photo: Channel Seven/AFL websiteThe AFL has further reduced the role of runners, telling clubs they may not be used to coach players on the ground, direct set plays or position themselves close to stoppages.

Clubs were told that while their runner is still allowed to deliver messages from the coaches box, re-position players or call them to the bench, they cannot “instruct, direct of coach players on ‘in-play’ situations” without risking a fine.

From this weekend runners will no longer be permitted within 25 metres of a stoppage, and must not position themselves inside the 50-metre zone when a stoppage is about to occur.

They must have either left the area entirely or be in the process of doing so, meaning situations like those that saw Geelong runner Nigel Lappin collide with Carlton’s Mitch Robinson late in their round 12 game should be avoided. Runners must also respond immediately to an umpire’s request for them to leave the ground.

While free kicks will continue to be paid against runners who interfere with players, other indiscretions are more likely to be dealt with by the league’s football operations department.

Several clubs have used development coaches or other football department staff as their runner, especially since the AFL cut the number of runners from two to one at the start of the 2014 season.

The league also reduced the amount of time they were able to spend on the ground, concerned that runners and other on-field officials such as trainers were clogging up space.

Geelong was handed a suspended $2000 fine after Lappin clashed with Robinson in the dying seconds of the match, which the Cats held on to win.

AFL football operations manager Mark Evans has spoken with representatives from all clubs since that incident, with the changes designed to discourage clutter and ensure runners do not interfere with players or umpires.

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Fitzhenry to lead Southcity in 2015

STAYING PUT: Playmaker Daniel Fitzhenry will coach Southcity again in 2015

DETERMINED not to overstay his welcome, Southcity captain-coach Daniel Fitzhenry called for a poll of the players before deciding to stay with the Bulls for 2015.

In what Southcity president Rod Porter described as a “massive boost”, Fitzhenry yesterday “agreed to terms” for a fifth, and possibly last, season in command at the Wagga club.

Coming days out from a critical Group Nine clash with Young at Harris Park on Sunday, Fitzhenry’s decision was applauded by Porter, and strongly backed by the Bulls players.

Speaking to The Daily Advertiser yesterday, Porter revealed that Fitzhenry had been prepared to call an end to his coaching tenure at Southcity if the players had not wanted him to stay on.

“Daniel actually asked us to talk to the players before he made the decision,” Porter said yesterday.

“The reaction we got (from the players) was really positive.

“They were really keen for Daniel to coach in 2015.”

Porter is adamant the retention of Fitzhenry on a “hand shake deal” was an important step for Southcity.

“Daniel has been great for the club,” Porter said.

“We’ve come a long way in the time Daniel has been here.”

An NRL premiership winner with Wests Tigers in 2005, Fitzhenry was a headline-grabbing recruit for the Bulls in 2011.

Currently in his fourth season with Southcity, the star playmaker has had a profound impact, presiding over the rise of the Bulls from stragglers to major premiership force.

Under Fitzhenry, Southcity won a breakthrough grand final in his first year, and has maintained a high position ever since.

This year the Bulls are second on the table and in the right in the mix for another title.

Fitzhenry yesterday admitted he had been unsure whether to continue his stint at the club.

“It does play on your mind,” he said yesterday.

“Sometimes the boys feel they need a change.

“Every club goes through it … the boys get sick of the coach.

“That’s why I asked the club to talk to the boys.”

Given the endorsement of the playing group, and with his “body feeling all right”, Fitzhenry elected to coach next year.

However, he is adamant his career is nearing an end.

“I don’t want to wind up looking like a goose,” he said.

“I’ll reassess things at the end of the year.”

Significantly, the retention of Fitzhenry came as Southcity announced it will celebrate a 10-year reunion on July 19.

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F6 extension takes on a twist

Just another day: Gridlock at 8.20am yesterday on the Princes Highway, Kogarah. Picture: John VeageIN A surprise twist, the long-awaited F6 extension could bypass St George and Sutherland Shire’s east and instead run through Menai and Alfords Point to the M5 motorway.

Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the possible change would be considered in an $11 million feasibility study of the F6 route, funded in the state budget on Tuesday.

Mr Gay said the road corridor from Loftus to St Peters, which was set aside in 1951, would most likely be confirmed by the study. However, as part of the process, including the preparation of a business case, consideration would be given to other possible routes.

Mr Gay said there was a push from the Illawarra for the F6 extension to run west towards Alfords Point before connecting with the M5 motorway.

“The F6 is not just a road for the shire — it links Sydney and Wollongong as well,” he said.

“Since the route was drawn up many years ago, other roads and bridges have been built and population densities have changed.

“Most people would probably say the existing route is the best way to go, but we will use the $11 million to evaluate other options as well.

“The F6 doesn’t necessarily have to join the M5 [East] at the airport.

“A lot of community people say, coming from Wollongong you could go across to Alfords Point Bridge and join the M5 further west.

‘‘The study will look at this, but I would think the big betting money would be on the existing route.’’

Mr Gay said there was ‘‘tremendous serendipity’’ in the F6 extension being studied at the same time as a business case was being developed for extending the WestConnex motorway from Tempe to Kogarah.

The WestConnex extension could link into the F6 corridor or become part of that road, he said.

Mr Gay said planners from the WestConnex Development Authority and Roads and Maritime Services would liaise.

Route option is news to NRMA

NRMA deputy president Michael Tynan said an alternative route had never come up in discussions.

‘‘It muddies the water at a time when we feel we have really got somewhere with this budget funding,’’ he said.

“Community consultation will play a key part in this and the NRMA will work hard now to ensure we get the planning right.’’

Cronulla MP Mark Speakman said the existing reservation should be used.

‘‘A corridor through the western end of the shire may well be an F6 extension, but we need a motorway through the eastern and central part of the shire that connects to the rest of the Sydney motorway network,’’ he said.

In a joint statement, Liberal MPs from St George, Sutherland Shire and the Illawarra were noncommittal about the route.

‘‘The way traffic moves through these suburbs has changed a lot since the F6 was first gazetted in the 1950s,’’ they said.

‘‘Whatever the final design … one thing is certain: travel from southern Sydney, the Illawarra and the south coast will never be the same again.’’

The MPs said they were ‘‘thrilled’’ with the budget allocation. They said what seemed to be an urban myth was ‘‘no longer a pipe dream, thanks to our campaigning and a government committed to rebuilding NSW’’.

Back to the future

In the 1990s, the Labor-controlled Sutherland Shire Council pushed for the route from Heathcote through Menai and Alfords Point to be made a major road artery instead of building a high-level bridge at Woronora.

It would involve widening Heathcote Road between Princes Highway and New Illawarra Road, Lucas Heights, and replacing the dangerous, narrow bridge.

Other sections of the route would also need to be widened.

Capacity for additional lanes on Alfords Point Bridge was provided when it was duplicated.

What route do you think anF6 extension should take?

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