More time for prison assault

AN inmate who carried out an “extremely violent” assault on his cellmate at Albany Regional Prison in May has had another two months added to his near five-year prison term.

Brendon Owen Belfield appeared in Albany Magistrates Court via video link last week and pleaded guilty to one count of assault occasioning bodily harm.

The court was told Mr Belfield attacked the victim, with whom he was sharing a bunk bed, on the evening of May 8 while the pair was watching television.

Prosecuting Sergeant Alan Dean said the accused jumped down from the top bunk of the bed after an argument broke out and struck the victim in the face and chest with his fists.

“The victim managed to press the cell’s call button,” Sgt Dean said.

“[He] was treated at Albany Hospital.”

Magistrate Raelene Johnston was shown photos of the victim’s injuries and described the attack as “extremely violent [and] prolonged”.

“It was a very extreme form of aggression … It was multiple uses of force on someone who was lying in bed and unprepared,” she said.

“You had no right to do what you did.”

Defence lawyer Richard Hickson told the court the two prisoners had been in an ongoing dispute for some time and noted that Mr Belfield had since been transferred to Casuarina Prison.

He said his client was already serving a sentence of four years and 10 months and was required to serve the entire sentence.

“Did Mr Belfield receive any punishment in prison?” Magistrate Johnston asked.

“Yes, your Honour. I spent one or two weeks in [solitary] detention,” Mr Belfield said.

Magistrate Johnston said that aside from the fact Mr Belfield had already received some punishment and had pleaded guilty at an early opportunity, there were “limited mitigating factors”.

“The only real consideration for reducing the sentence is you are already serving a lengthy term of imprisonment for other violent offences of a very different nature,” she said.

“[You are] not a first time offender.”

Mr Belfield received a two-month prison sentence to be served on a cumulative basis.

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Reducing meth best served by treatment

A MANAGER of a leading drug treatment agency has suggested the funds spent on a recently launched police meth-busting van for the Great Southern could have been better used on treatment and prevention.

Palmerston Great Southern’s Ben Headlam said while he was not opposed to police working to reduce the supply of meth coming into Albany and other towns, enforcement strategies would not work in isolation.

The hi-tech vehicle took to the roads last week and comes equipped with an X-ray machine valued at almost $80,000 and TruNarc onsite drug testing capabilities that can identify substances almost instantaneously.

It joins a fleet of two other police vans currently operating in the Kimberley and Goldfields.

“The most effective way to reduce the amount of meth that’s on our streets is not necessarily all about enforcement, it’s about treatment and preventing people from becoming hooked on meth,” Mr Headlam said.

“As much as 80 per cent of people who are dealing methamphetamine are doing so to support their own addiction.

“You treat a dealer and you remove a dealer … supply reduction must be balanced with demand reduction as well.”

According to Mr Headlam, while data indicates the number of meth users around the country is decreasing, people who are using have been using for a longer period and are using more and higher purity forms of the drug.

He described the mission to stem the flow of meth in the region as a “constant game of cat and mouse” and said he did not expect the van to make much of an impact.

“They likely will have some early successes but if history tells us anything, the market hates a vacuum and people will adapt and find ways around it,” he said.

“We’re not talking about massive multi-million dollar hauls coming in one load, we’re talking about numbers of users bringing in supply for a small number of people and taking it in turns in a group to do those runs.

“The van can only be in one place at one time … it’s quite likely those main arterial routes will change.”

Great Southern Superintendent Ian Clarke described the vehicle as a means of a making a “significant difference” halting the flow of meth on Great Southern highways and byways.

“In regional Australia, we tend to do the best with what we’ve got and this provides us a great additional capability around emergency management and response, but also education too,” he said.

“It will roll out to events across the region to help us in that discussion in the community around things like drugs.”

Mr Clarke added that while the van increased police drug enforcement abilities, support from the community was still important.

He said police relied on members of the public to report suspicious activity and pass on information that might help hinder the ability of criminals to move drugs across the region.

“Ultimately it’s going to take all of us to have a decent impact on the meth trade,” he said.

The meth van was manufactured in Western Australia using funds dedicated to combating meth.
Figures from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s seventh National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program report released in June suggest WA continues to have the highest average rates of regional methylamphetamine consumption in Australia.

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Belinda’s brave walk

PERTH woman Belinda Teh is making the long trek from Melbourne to her home state’s capital on foot in a bid to raise awareness about voluntary assisted dying.

The 27-year-old former law student’s mother Mareia Teh lost her struggle with terminal breast cancer in April 2016, a short 11 weeks after her surprise diagnosis.

Since then, with the assistance of charity Go Gentle Australia, Ms Teh has been an outspoken advocate for the end-of-life option her mother was denied twice.

She set out on her 70-day, 4500-kilometre Brave Walk campaign on May 28, passed through South Australia in June and will end up at Parliament House in Perth on August 6.

The Weekender spoke with Ms Teh, who is set to arrive in Albany tomorrow afternoon, about the physical and emotional journey she’s been on so far.

“Eight days after I finished my last exam at the University of Western Australia, my mum was diagnosed with stage four advanced aggressive terminal cancer,” she recalled.

“Both of her express requests for assistance to die were denied and as a result she went on to die in a way that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

“A year later I found out it was going to be legal in Victoria.

“I remember thinking to myself if only I could put that law in my pocket and walk it back from Victoria to WA to give it to my mum, but I can’t walk back in time.”

On June 19 this year it became legal for a Victorian resident with a terminal illness to request assistance to die at the end of their life.

That legislation outlined various safeguards and requirements, such as the need for prospective patients to be adults and mentally competent with six months or less to live.

The WA government is currently considering a similar law and Ms Teh intends to arrive at Parliament with a petition full of signatures she accrued on her walk.

Travelling from town to town six days a week and walking up to eight hours and 40 kilometres a day, Mr Teh likened her journey to those being taken by terminally ill people everyday.

She said the idea was for the walk to be an “assisted walk for assisted dying” with a campervan travelling alongside her for when she cannot continue.

“If I ever feel like I’m struggling, if I roll my ankle or I’m overwhelmed by flashbacks of my mum dying, I’m allowed to get into the support vehicle,” she said.

“The message I’m trying to convey is that when you’re embarking on this crazy, difficult, extremely painful journey, it should be okay to ask for and accept help.”

According to a November 2017 national poll conducted by Roy Morgan Research, around 87% of Australians support voluntary assisted dying.

Victoria is the only state in Australia to have enshrined the end-of-life option into law despite more than 50 attempts to pass similar legislation in various Australian parliaments.

Ms Teh said while she had “been getting support across the board,” she expected the issue to resonate particularly strongly in a retiree-centric community like Albany.

“The difference when I speak to older people is they see me walking for them, whereas if I’m in a place where there’s a very young population they see me walking for their mums and dads or grandmas and grandpas,” she said.

After more than 40 days on the road, Ms Teh will meet with Albany residents tomorrow.

This will not be her first time visiting the seaside city with Ms Teh having travelled down from Perth once as a child and again during her university studies.

“I remember seeing those giant islands out in the bay and feeling that was just really beautiful,” she recalled.

“That’s the one image I really took away from my experience there.”

Member for Albany Peter Watson said Ms Teh’s visit would give people the opportunity to speak with her and share their own stories.

“It’s very important people have discussions about voluntary assisted dying because of the very personal nature of the subject,” Mr Watson said.

“To get the legislation right people who have an interest in the issue must have the opportunity to express their views.”

During her stop Ms Teh will be collecting signatures for her petition to the WA Legislative Council, donations for Go Gentle Australia, as well as “hugs, handshakes and high-fives.”

“I would love people to come and realise they’re not alone,” she said.

“We can’t fix a problem unless we acknowledge it’s there and we speak up about what’s happening.”

The hour-long meet will take place at Due South tomorrow at 5:30pm.

Those interested can register for the meet and follow Ms Teh’s journey at www.belindasbravewalk.org.au.

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