Ghosts, unicorns and killers: Five things you may not expect from one of WA’s oldest buildings

Posted October 14, 2017 10:22:43

WA’s Supreme Court has convicted some of the State’s most infamous criminals over the past century, but did you know an Aboriginal woman apparently haunts the building?

Or that a unicorn in chains looks down from above the seat where the judge presides?

On Sunday the courthouse, built in 1903, will open its doors to the public in an effort to engage with the wider community and educate people about the judicial system.

The building’s criminal court has convicted thousands of people over more than a century, including notorious Perth couple Catherine and David Birnie, who killed four women in the 1980s, and businessman Alan Bond.

But what secrets has the old building kept hidden over the many years?

A kangaroo court?

Sitting above the building, and above each judge in the building’s three courts, is the full British coat of arms.

The crest depicts a crowned lion on one side, representing England, while a unicorn in chains, representing Scotland, is on the other.

According to legend, a free unicorn was considered a very dangerous beast, which is why the mythical creature is chained.

Chief Justice Wayne Martin, who has presided over the Supreme Court for the past 11 years, said the crest – which has the French phrase “Dieu et mon droit” (God and my right) – was maintained in the building because of its heritage value.

“At the time this building was built it was thought that the authority for all the judges came from the monarch,” he said.

“Whereas today we accept the authority comes from the state of Western Australia, and so in our modern court buildings we sit under our state crest, which has the kangaroos on it.

“Which is good, because when anybody complains that it’s a kangaroo court we can say, ‘of course it is, look at the crest behind us’.”

Walking in criminal footsteps

Chief Justice Martin said the open day provided an opportunity to get an insight into the court’s operation, with access made available to otherwise restricted areas.

Visitors will also be given the chance to follow in the footsteps of some of WA’s worst criminals, and walk the stairs from the holding cells up to the dock.

“The last man who was executed in Western Australia, Mr Eric Cooke, was convicted here and sentenced here and ultimately executed, and many of the other more notorious criminals of the earlier part of the last century were also dealt with here,” Chief Justice Martin said.

“I’m sure it would have been a very frightening experience for many of the people who’ve had to walk down those stairs after being sentenced to a long term of imprisonment, or perhaps to death.”

Ghost stories

The building’s darker side has been an ongoing source of fascination for visitors, the Chief Justice said.

“There have been a lot of stories about ghosts in the basement,” he said.

“We have security 24/7 so people who work here still maintain those stories, they hear clunks in the middle of the night,” he said.

“There’s supposed to be the ghost of an old Aboriginal lady living in the cellar.

“We did have some ghost hunters in, [but] they weren’t able to find anything, unfortunately.”

Prisoners on the loose

In 2004 nine prisoners overpowered security guards and made a dash for freedom from the heritage building.

The men — all classified maximum or medium security prisoners with offences ranging from armed robbery and aggravated burglary to assaulting a police officer — were in the holding cells when the breakout took place on the morning of June 10.

“As a consequence of that escape … a significant amount of money was spent improving the custody arrangements in the cells,” Chief Justice Martin said.

“We now have much more secure arrangements in our cells than we did prior to that tragic event.”

Both the building and the judiciary it serves have undergone a number of upgrades and changes.

Designed by well-known colonial architect John Grainger, the court was built before electricity was readily available.

Multiple large windows for natural light are in each room, as are fireplaces in every corner.

“One of the jobs of the judge’s orderly was to stoke the fire during the course of proceedings during winter, to make sure people didn’t get too cold,” Chief Justice Martin said.

Horse’s hair ditched

Technology has meant many changes, with full digitisation expected either late this year or early next year, while the appearance of judges has also evolved.

Traditional robes, which some compared to looking like Father Christmas, have been replaced by plain black robes, and in 2008 wigs were abandoned

“The removal of the wigs was an important, symbolic step in showing that the courts are vibrant, contemporary, Australian institutions, rather than antiquated European institutions,” he said.

There was also an added bonus for ditching the head attire.

“The wigs are made from hair of the tail of a horse,” he said.

“And if you think about where the tail of the horse is anatomically — well, enough said.”

The Supreme Court will be open to the public between 11am and 3pm on Sunday October 15.

Topics: courts-and-trials, architecture, judges-and-legal-profession, perth-6000

Rebel Wilson’s massive defamation win is an opportunity for publishers and readers

By Alana Schetzer

Posted September 14, 2017 16:52:54

Australia’s tabloid magazines received a massive blow when Rebel Wilson was awarded a whopping $4.5 million in damages over a series of articles in 2015 that were found to be defamatory.

But it’s also an opportunity for publishers and readers to say goodbye to an out-moded product.

The sheer size of the payout — which could be the subject of an appeal — sets a legal and social precedent in what magazines cannot get away with printing about people. In this case, a jury decided that Woman’s Day had damaged Wilson’s career with “a campaign designed to cast a slur on Ms Wilson, that would attract interest”.

The question now is how will magazines such as Woman’s Day, NW, New Idea and others respond to this? Will they keep exaggerating stories and using dodgy, anonymous sources or will they change tactics in order to avoid such stiff consequences again?

The holy trinity of gossip

Many gossip magazines are built on the premise of untruths and exaggerated tales, especially around the holy trinity of marriage, babies and divorce.

They buy photos from paparazzi photographers and build a narrative around that image.

Did a famous actor took grumpy while they’re eating at a cafe with their boyfriend? Must be relationship troubles!

Has a singer been snapped after eating a meal and looks a bit bloated? She must be eating for two!

Trust isn’t a factor

While many are predicting that the tabloid industry will now need to straighten up and stop printing falsehoods and stories built on flimsy premises and dodgy sources, that is not necessarily the case.

Trust has never been an ingredient needed for gossip magazine success; readers are often well aware that what they are reading is at the very least exaggerations and hyperbole, and Wilson’s win doesn’t change that.

Instead, readers will need to decide whether they want to continue to support an industry that profits off harming people’s reputations, career opportunities and relationship stability.

As long as people keep buying these magazines, it will be considered an endorsement of their actions. After all, aren’t they just supplying what their audience demands?

Money talks for cash-strapped companies

What could change the industry is money. Wilson’s payout is the biggest in Australian legal history; it is an eye-watering sum for the Australian magazine industry.

Wilson v Bauer

Such a hefty payout could have been absorbed by a magazine company’s equally hefty wallets a few years ago, but magazines are now struggling. A flux of title closures, staff redundancies and other cost cuts has removed the financial cushion needed to soften the blow of some of their more reckless actions.

Bauer Media, the German owner of Woman’s Day, has already had to drastically cut staff and use more content from its overseas publications following a drop in sales across most of its titles. It can ill-afford to have further defamation cases brought against it.

If it doesn’t make financial sense for a magazine to print nonsense, this could bring about a significant change in editorial approach.

Take Who for example, a tabloid magazine published by Pacific Magazines, but which has a editorial policy of not publishing known falsehoods or sleazy photographs. A recent Roy Morgan survey of magazine sales reveal that Who is performing better than Woman’s Day in terms of readership loss, but only by a tiny margin.

Struggling to keep up with online

Many former tabloid magazine readers have ditched print in favour for online gossip in recent years. Online, stories are instant and by the time a magazine is printed days later they are likely to be woefully out-out-date.

The need for fresh stories and angles in this hyper-competitive market could be a significant driving force for the creative licence used by these magazines.

Wilson is far from the first celebrity or high-profile person who’s been targeted by a tabloid magazine, having lies printed about their private lives.

TV presenter Fifi Box and actress Bec Hewitt are regular targets on the front pages of these magazines, an appearance they neither seek nor are happy with. On numerous occasions, these women have publicly called out the fake stories that are printed about them. But this didn’t stop readers from buying these magazines or reading other gossip online.

And if Wilson’s resounding win and record payout isn’t incentive enough for the tabloids to change their ways, what will it take?

Alana Schetzer is a freelance writer.

Topics: courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, print-media, information-and-communication, arts-and-entertainment, melbourne-3000, australia

George Calombaris’s assault of A-League fan ‘a serious crime’

Posted September 08, 2017 13:30:05

Celebrity chef George Calombaris thought a teenager was insulting his mother when he assaulted him after the A-League grand final in May, a court has heard.

Calombaris, who appears in Channel Ten reality TV show Masterchef, was due to be sentenced today for assaulting the 19-year-old Sydney FC fan in the stands of the Sydney Football Stadium.

However, Downing Centre Local Court magistrate David Price declined to pass sentence without the assistance of a pre-sentence report.

Mr Price said the assault took place in public and was a “serious crime”.

“The accused pointed at the victim and said ‘you’re a big-mouthed man you dodgy c***’,” Mr Price said.

“He then punched him in the lower abdomen.”

The 38-year-old pleaded guilty to common assault via his lawyer last month after video emerged of him confronting the fan, then being ushered away by police.

In the video, Calombaris shakes his Melbourne Victory scarf at the victim, who was yelling abuse.

Calombaris then approached the man and shoved him in the chest.

His lawyer, Pat Conaghan said Calombaris thought the teenager was insulting his mother.

“He expressed that he believed the victim had called his mother a c*** and took offence to that,” Mr Conaghan said.

He asked the court to impose community service.

“For someone with no prior offences, this is on the low end of the criminal calendar,” he said.

But Mr Price disagreed and ordered a pre-sentence report in order, which would highlight any extenuating circumstances that could impact the sentence.

Calombaris will be sentenced in six weeks.

Some restaurant staff still not paid entitlements

Meanwhile, Calombaris’s restaurant empire has been criticised for failing to meet a deadline to back pay former staff who were underpaid and did not receive their entitlements.

In April, Calombaris apologised after 162 of his company Made Establishment Group’s 430 employees — including staff at his Melbourne restaurants The Press Club, Gazi and Hellenic Republic — were short-changed a total of $2.6 million.

On Thursday, the company released a statement that said former staff were still waiting for payments.

“We understand the frustration of our former employees and have apologised for our past poor systems and processes that resulted in employees not being paid their full entitlements under the award. We are committed to resolving this as quickly as possible,” it said.

“We have also taken action to try and speed up the process and reduce delays. We have employed additional resources to help in calculating and reconciling the entitlements, some of which go back six years.

“Each week we continue to process payments of claims from former employees.”

A spokeswoman for the Fair Work Ombudsman said it was understood the majority of wage reconciliations for former employees had been completed.

However, those that remain outstanding have taken longer than expected to complete.

“While we appreciate that large-scale reconciliations can take considerable time and resources, we do not believe it is reasonable for former employees to have to wait this long to receive wages owed to them,” the spokeswoman said.

Topics: courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, sport, food-and-cooking, television, sydney-2000

Dali inheritance not on cards for tarot reader after exhumation, paternity test

Updated September 07, 2017 08:44:04

A paternity test has disproved a Spanish woman’s claim that she is the daughter of surrealist artist Salvador Dali, the deceased painter’s foundation has announced.

Key points:

  • Foundation says it’s happy “absurd” claim is resolved
  • Pilar Abel said her mother had an affair with Salvador Dali
  • Dali’s remains will now be returned to his coffin

The Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation said the Madrid court that ordered the DNA test informed it that Pilar Abel, a 61-year-old tarot card reader, has no biological relationship with Dali.

Ms Abel has long alleged her mother had an affair with Dali and claimed she had the right to part of his vast estate.

The foundation said it was happy the “absurd” claim had been resolved.

Calls to Ms Abel’s lawyer went unanswered.

A judicial spokesman said the court has not made the test results public but has informed the parties in the lawsuit.

He spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with court rules.

The high-profile paternity claim led to the exhumation of Dali’s embalmed remains so genetic samples could be taken.

Forensic experts removed hair, nails and two long bones in July.

The foundation, which manages Dali’s estate on behalf of the Spanish state, said at the time of the exhumation that Dali’s remains — including his famous moustache — were well-preserved and mummified after an embalming process almost 30 years ago.

The foundation said the painter’s remains will be returned to his coffin, which is buried in the Dali Museum Theatre in the north-eastern Spanish town of Figueres, Dali’s birthplace.

Ms Abel claimed her mother had an affair with Dali while working as a domestic helper in Figueres.

She said her grandmother revealed the family secret when Ms Abel was still young and that her mother confirmed the story years later.

Dali, who died in 1989 aged 84, was one of the 20th century’s most famous and easily recognised artists.

His paintings include The Persistence of Memory, with its iconic images of melting clocks, and he also turned his hand to movies, sculpture and advertising.


Topics: law-crime-and-justice, courts-and-trials, death, human-interest, arts-and-entertainment, art-history, spain

First posted September 07, 2017 08:03:38

Musical star Paulini admits to bribing a public official

Updated September 04, 2017 12:59:37

Singer Paulini Curuenavuli has pleaded guilty to bribing a government official to unlawfully obtain a driver’s licence.

The former Australian Idol contestant and current star of The Bodyguard Musical, has appeared in person at Mount Druitt Local Court in Sydney’s west.

The 34-year-old sat quietly as her barrister Lisa-Claire Hutchinson entered the guilty plea on her behalf.

Police issued Curuenavuli with a court attendance notice in June after she paid around $800 to a Roads and Maritime Service (RMS) customer service worker in exchange for an unrestricted NSW driver’s licence.

She was charged with one count of corruptly giving a benefit to an agent, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.

Ms Hutchinson asked the court for a long adjournment before sentencing so her client could complete a traffic offender’s program and obtain her driver’s license lawfully.

She also explained that Curuenavuli was committed to six to seven performances of The Bodyguard Musical a week in Melbourne until November.

Magistrate Brian Van Zuylen said he was not opposed to a delay in sentencing, and agreed to hand down his decision in December.

A 27-year-old RMS official, Faletausala Feesili Vaifale, pleaded guilty to three charges last year.

She was sentenced to 12 months home detention for making a false document to influence the exercise of public duty, corruptly receiving a benefit while an agent, and dealing with the proceeds of crime

Viafale no longer works for the RMS and has been disqualified from working in civic office for seven years.

Court documents reveal Viafale received $34,582 from the scheme between June 2015 and July 2016.

Topics: courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, arts-and-entertainment, mount-druitt-2770

First posted September 04, 2017 12:49:12

Singer Paulini facing jail time for allegedly bribing official to get driver’s licence

Updated August 11, 2017 09:03:25

Paulini Curuenavuli, the former Australian Idol contestant and star of The Bodyguard Musical, will face court after allegedly bribing a government official to obtain a driver’s licence.

It will be alleged the 34-year-old paid a sum of money to a Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) employee in exchange for an unrestricted driver’s licence.

NSW Police have confirmed Curuenavuli was issued a future court attendance notice on June 30 and is due to face Mount Druitt Local Court next week.

Police said she would be charged with corruptly giving a benefit to an agent, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail.

A 27-year-old RMS worker, Faletausala Feesili Vaifale, of Emerton, pleaded guilty to three charges last year.

She was sentenced to 12 months’ home detention for making a false document to influence the exercise of public duty, corruptly receiving a benefit while an agent and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

She no longer works for the department and has been disqualified from holding a civic office for seven years.

Curuenavuli is currently in Brisbane playing the role of Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard Musical, a character made famous by Whitney Houston who starred alongside Kevin Costner in the hit 1990’s film.

The Fijian-born singer-turned-actress rose to fame on the reality TV show Australian Idol in 2003.

Curuenavuli’s agent has been contacted for comment.

Topics: law-crime-and-justice, courts-and-trials, arts-and-entertainment, mount-druitt-2770

First posted August 11, 2017 08:38:08

Amber Harrison abandons legal fight with Seven

Updated July 07, 2017 18:42:16

Amber Harrison has abandoned her legal battle with her former employer Seven West Media, and will accept a gag order.

Ms Harrison, a one-time executive assistant at Seven, is due in the Supreme Court in Sydney on Monday for the latest chapter in a bitter fallout with the media giant.

The gag order will mean she can no longer speak about her affair with Seven boss Tim Worner, the details of which have prompted several explosive headlines.

In March, Ms Harrison announced she had hired prominent barrister Julian Burnside QC to represent her.

But today she announced a change of plans.

“I have made a realistic assessment of the court case and am choosing not to run it on Monday,” she tweeted.

“I’ve asked my legal team not to represent me.”

She is under a temporary gag order preventing her from releasing more confidential documents allegedly gathered before leaving the media company.

Ms Harrison, who left Seven in 2014, had been involved in mediation with her former employer.

“Negotiations broke down this morning because I refused to put my name to a broad public ‘apology’ and expression of ‘regret’,” Ms Harrison tweeted.

The case had been scheduled to run for five days.

Mr Warner remains in his position at Seven and was earlier this year cleared after a misconduct probe, which was funded by the company.

That investigation was sparked by Ms Harrison’s allegations Mr Warner had used illicit drugs, misused a company credit card and approved a bonus payment to her during their relationship while she was employed by Seven.

Topics: law-crime-and-justice, courts-and-trials, television, broadcasting, information-and-communication, television-broadcasting, arts-and-entertainment, sydney-2000

First posted July 07, 2017 18:27:07