Craig McLachlan to hear claims in court

A whiteboard will be used to shield one of Australian actor Craig McLachlan’s alleged victims while detailing indecent assault accusations against him.

The screen and stage star is charged with seven counts of indecent assault, one of attempted indecent assault and another of assault involving four alleged victims in Melbourne between April and July in 2014.

Prosecutors plan to read an overview of the allegations to Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday before the complainants give evidence.

The four want to detail their accusations in person during closed-court hearings but one has requested a screen shield.

All that was available was a white board, the court was told during a short hearing on Friday.

McLachlan was not in court but is expected to appear on Monday, when his lawyers plan to outline their defence.

The actor had been starring in the Rocky Horror Show stage production, playing the role of Dr Frank-N-Furter, around the time of the allegations.

A contested hearing is expected to go for three weeks, with some prosecution witnesses expected to give evidence remotely from South Africa’s Cape Town and another from Abu Dhabi.

McLachlan became a household name for roles in the Australian soap operas Neighbours and Home and Away, and more recently led the Ballarat-filmed TV series Doctor Blake Mysteries.

He denies the allegations against him and in 2018 launched defamation proceedings against Fairfax Media, the ABC and a former co-star.

The actor is seeking $6.5 million in damages but his case has been delayed until after criminal proceedings wrap up in Victoria.

© AAP 2019

Baby Hospital

Man charged over alleged assault of toddler and twin babies

A man has been charged over the alleged horrific assault of a toddler and twin babies in the NSW Riverina region.

The 24-year-old was arrested at a business in the Riverina area just after 1.00pm yesterday following ongoing investigations by the State Crime Command’s Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad.

Detectives were first notified of something going on in May 2013, when a 15-month-old boy presented to hospital with facial bruising and bleeding.

Despite investigations at the time, no one was charged.

However in March this year, a two-month-old boy was transported to hospital after becoming unresponsive.

Officers were told by the doctors the baby had suffered leg fractures, significant head trauma and facial bruising.

Detectives immediately began investigations, and during the course, they were again notified that another two-month-old boy presented at hospital after losing consciousness in March this year.

The man, who is known to the infants, has been charged with two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm (DV) and reckless grievous bodily harm (DV).

“Police will allege in court that the man assaulted twin two-month-old twin boys on separate occasions in March 2019,” NSW police said.

“It will be further alleged the man assaulted the 15-month-old boy in May 2013.”

The man was refused bail to appear at Griffith Local Court today.

The infants are all in the care of family.

Leave now: more Qlders told to flee fires

More residents have been told to leave their homes as Queensland braces for another day of dangerous fire conditions.

There are more than 60 blazes still burning across the state, with firefighters braced for high temperatures and hot, dry westerly winds on Friday and into the weekend.

Leave now warnings in place for residents of Woodgate and nearby Kinkuna Waters, south of Bundaberg. A third leave now warning has been issued for Thornside, west of Gympie.

The Cobraball fire near Yeppoon in central Queensland continues to worry authorities given the difficult weather conditions expected in coming days.

The blaze, which destroyed 15 of the 16 homes lost in Queensland over the past week, is 90 per cent contained but that could change when high winds arrive.

Damage assessments are continuing with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services saying the number of homes lost could rise.

But QFES assistant commissioner Tony Johnstone says crews have done a remarkable job protecting property.

“It’s really hard to say how many houses we’ve saved but I’d say in excess of 300 or 400,” he’s told ABC radio.

Temperatures near major fire grounds are expected to soar beyond 30C on Friday and into the weekend.

Almost the entire state is facing high or very high fire danger on Friday and there’s a chance of severe thunderstorms in the southeast that will produce little rain.

The drought-stricken Darling Downs and Granite Belt region, west of Brisbane, is facing severe fire danger for at least the next three days.

© AAP 2019

Elderly Mans Hands

More drugs and less GPs in aged care homes

Aged care residents are less likely to see doctors and more likely to be prescribed anti-psychotic medication than those receiving assistance at home.

Troubling data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has been released as a royal commission investigates the scandal-prone aged care sector.

The institute found the median amount of days on antipsychotics for Australian aged care residents was 180 days in a year, despite the World Health Organisation’s recommending it for 36 days.

Older Australians in aged care were also more likely to be hospitalised for fall-related injuries, but less likely to be taken to the emergency department.

The data comes after the Aged Care Royal Commission handed down a scathing interim report earlier this month, saying the sector was diminishing Australia as a nation.

It made three recommendations, including reducing the use of chemical restraints to control behaviour by residents.

Of the nearly 900,000 people aged 50 and over using aged care, the majority – more than 500,000 – used home care services.

Nearly 178,000 people aged 50 and over used permanent residential care, which also had the highest proportion – nearly 60 per cent – of users aged 85 and over.

Up to 8 per cent of people using a form of home based support were being prescribed at least one antipsychotic.

But this jumped to 28 per cent when it came to permanent aged care residents, the institute has found.

The royal commission recommended the government force aged care homes to publish their use of both chemical and physical restraints.

The institute said permanent aged care residents averaged one GP visit per fortnight but were less likely to have at least one GP visit than home care users – 92 per cent compared to up 98 per cent.

One in 10 people in home care were hospitalised for fall-related injuries, compared to six per cent getting home support, or two per cent for those not using aged care services.

People aged 85 and over in permanent care made up the largest proportion of residents over 50 hospitalised for falls.

© AAP 2019

Qld bracing for dangerous fire threat

Queensland firefighters are working frantically to strengthen containment lines and fire breaks as the state braces for the fire danger to again ramp up to severe levels.

The Bureau of Meteorology has warned conditions will become more dangerous as dry westerlies push extremely hot air across the state on Friday and heading into the weekend.

Many Queenslanders forced to flee their homes remain in limbo unable to return home.

As the fire threat deepens, there has been growing anger after a teenage boy was charged with lighting the Cobraball fire near Yeppoon that has burned for days in central Queensland.

A total of 36 structures – including 14 homes – have so far been destroyed by the massive blaze which is still burning.

“I think everyone is angry and disappointed,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters.

“Thankfully there were no lives lost, but it could have been a different story. I think parents need to sit down with their kids and talk about the consequences of their actions.”

Alerts remained in place for Black Snake, in the Gympie region, and the coastal towns of Woodgate and Buxton, south of Bundaberg, on Thursday afternoon.

In Black Snake, the large, slow-moving fire is burning near the Des Simpson Memorial and a wind change has sent the fire tracking in a northwesterly direction.

Crews will be backburning along the southeastern edge of the blaze, in the vicinity of Thornside Road and Upper Thornside Road.

The Woodgate blaze is burning near Woodgate Road and Woppis Road, travelling towards Walkers Point Road.

People in nearby Kinkuna have been told to leave as a fast-moving bushfire closes in, moving west toward Kinkuna Waters Estate.

There is a second warning for Buxton residents in the same area.

Residents of Noosa North Shore have been allowed to return home after being evacuated twice in one week.

More than 70 fires are burning across the state since the current crisis erupted a week ago.

While authorities keep a close eye on the bigger fires, exhausted crews face another challenge on Friday as the temperatures rise and the fire threat intensifies.

The weather bureau warns the westerlies will push extremely dry air back toward the coastal fringe bringing a low-intensity heatwave.

Severe isolated storms cells have also been forecast to potentially bring dry lightning which could ignite further fires.

“The story is one of very high fire dangers or severe fire danger ratings for the next three days over the weekend,” BOM forecaster Richard Wardell said.

A large fire is still burning in difficult terrain near the five-star Spicers Peak Lodge on the Southern Downs, but it is not directly impacting properties.

There are a number of fires between Brisbane and the NSW border, including in the Scenic Rim west of the Gold Coast.

© AAP 2019