Woman’s death after pelvic mesh complications: ‘The pain is just too much’

Close: Alison Blake and daughter Leesa Tolhurst. Mrs Blake committed suicide in June, 2015 after multiple pelvic mesh surgery operations that left her with severe and disabling pain, and unable to urinate without a catheter.
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ALISON Blake took her own life in June 2015 only two weeks after a doctor told hernothing couldbe done to easeher pain oraddress the devastating consequences ofpelvic mesh device surgery.

“I cannot bear the thought of leaving you but the emotional torment and physical pain I’m going through are just too much,” Mrs Blake, 64, said in a final letter to her only child, Leesa Tolhurst.

“I simply cannot bear to be lying on a couch for months on end and to have to rely on catheters, enemas, Temazepam, pain killers and be a burden to my family and friends.”

Read more: Senator Derryn Hinch calls for total ban on mesh devices

Mrs Tolhurstsobbed this week as she remembered the turning point forher mother.

“She’d gone to the doctor hoping that perhaps something could be done. She was hysterical when she came here and said there was nothing left. I just tried to comfort her. I remember her as she drove away from my house, there was just a look in her eyes,” Mrs Tolhurst said.

Mrs Blake, a primary school teacher, was implanted with a prolapse pelvic mesh device in October, 2013 and suffered immediatecomplications, including severe and consistent pain. Her surgeon tried to remove the mesh six weeks later. She had further unsuccessful surgery to treat the complications in May and July, 2014. By November, 2014, the pelvic mesh device was one of the first in the world to be removed from the market because of lack of evidence it was safe and effective to use.

Leesa Tolhurst about her mother, Alison Blake.Suffer in Silenceis a Newcastle Herald investigation spearheaded by journalist Joanne McCarthy

Power back at Bulldogs as list manager

Former Western Bulldogs’ utility Sam Power is replacing Jason McCartney as the club’s list and recruiting manager.
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He will be responsible for TPP management, contracting and player acquisition.

The 34-year-old has been working in Carlton’s football department since 2014 as integrity and operations manager, performing a range of roles including talent identification at the Blues.

He completed a law degree at Melbourne University and played 84 games at the Western Bulldogs and 39 games with North Melbourne between 2002-2009.

The role became vacant when McCartney joined Greater Western Sydney as a list manager last month, a little more than 12 months after the Bulldogs won the flag.

Dogs’ recruiting manager Simon Dalrymple and McCartney built a list that was the envy of many clubs when they won the 2016 premiership under the guidance of senior coach Luke Beveridge, who was in his second season at the club.

But the Bulldogs missed the finals in 2017 and new CEO Ameet Bains, who finished up with St Kilda to start at the Bulldogs in early December, took the opportunity that McCartney’s departure presented to examine the recruiting department’s structure in consultation with football director Chris Grant.

The Bulldogs have made some superb selections at the national draft in recent years with Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae, Caleb Daniel, Josh Dunkley, Toby McLean and the recently traded Jake Stringer all playing critical roles in the club’s drought-breaking premiership.

At the 2017 national draft they added defender Aaron Naughton, line-breaker Ed Richards and determined midfielder Callum Porter, while also adding talented young forward Josh Schache, midfielder Hayden Crozier and utility Jackson Trengove during the trade period.

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The $71 million Opera House upgrades that patrons will never see or hear

THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE UPGRADE- Stage hands bump in one of the sets from the Opera La Traviata on the Dame Joan Sutherland theatre at the Sydney Opera House, they are demenstrating how much easier it is to change sets with the new uprades to back stage technologie and lifts on December 20, 2017. Photo: Jessica Hromas THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE UPGRADE- Stage hands bump in one of the sets from the Opera La Traviata on the Dame Joan Sutherland theatre at the Sydney Opera House, they are demenstrating how much easier it is to change sets with the new uprades to back stage technologie and lifts on December 20, 2017. Photo: Jessica Hromas
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Production manager of Opera Australia, James Wheeler stand on the Joan Sutherland Theatre of the Sydney Opera House, after speaking to media about the changes that audiences will experience when the world-famous venue re-opens on New Year’s Eve, after seven months of renewal works.on 20 December 2017. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron stands on the Joan Sutherland Theatre of the Sydney Opera House, and speaks to media about the changes that audiences will experience when the world-famous venue re-opens on New Year’s Eve, after seven months of renewal works.on 20 December 2017. Photo: Jessica Hromas

THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE UPGRADE- Builders stand on the Dame Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House, as the Sydney Opera Houses renovations are nearly complete, ready for the opening night of the Merry Widow on New Years Eve, on December 20, 2017. Photo: Jessica Hromas

They’re likely the most expensive changes to the Sydney Opera House that patrons will hopefully never hear or see.

After seven months and $71 million of work, the Joan Sutherland Theatre will reopen on New Year’s Eve with a performance of Merry Widow.

All patrons are expected to notice is a warm and vibrant sound that does justice to the orchestra, thanks to improvements to the acoustics and the orchestra pit.

Behind the scenes, the improvements include a $45 million upgrade to the theatre machinery including a massive lift built by Austrian firm Waagner-Biro. Unlike the old lift, also built by the same firm, the new one is safer, quieter and 2.5 times faster. It can carry about 20 tonnes of scenery, baritones, sopranos, even elephants and horses to stage level with barely a whisper. The old lift had become unsafe and performers were banned from riding on it.

Above the stage, more than 400 tonnes of wire and steel was removed.

In its place new rigging was installed above the stage managed by a new theatre flying system – that is capable of lifting scenery and cast, even Violetta in La Traviata into the stars – safely and noiselessly.

Previously scene changes were sometimes audible to the audience, making it hard for them to suspend their disbelief.

Opera Australia’s production manager James Wheeler said the changes were designed to provide the best possible performances for singers, dancers, performers and patrons.

“All this work will be happening behind the scenes, as it always has, but less obtrusively, because you won’t hear stuff, everything will work, nothing will break down.”

“We don’t want patrons to know what we are doing, and we don’t want them to see our stuff, unless we are pointing attention, to say, ‘look at this fantastic reveal’,” he said.

The old lift was noisy enough that a member of the Opera House staff swore he could hear it whirring during the overture when watching the simulcast on ABC television.

“What we don’t want is to distract a patron’s attention from what’s happening on stage.

“We don’t want to have someone in the middle of an aria, and suddenly you hear a clunk,” said Mr Wheeler, who started off at the Opera House as a flyman moving rigging. He said he could identify each piece of old rigging by the sound it made during a performance. Now, he hopes to hear nothing.

The improvements to the Joan Sutherland Theatre are the first in the Opera House’s $273 million renewal program, which will include similar improvements to the Concert Hall, changes to the entry foyers and the construction of a new exhibition and performance space under the Opera House stairs.

Inspecting the new changes on Wednesday morning, the Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said the improvements “signal a new era for one of the world’s great performance venues and an Australian icon, opening up new possibilities and ensuring it is able to continue to meet the needs and expectations of artists, audiences and visitors for many years to come”.

The changes also include six new toilets for women, improvements in the lighting system and improvements to the air conditioning in the orchestra pit, which previously ranged from freezing to very cold, said a source.

Michael Dixon, a French horn player who has worked in the pit for 12 years, said they worked hard to make a beautiful sound, “rarely achieving anything for the audience other than an echo”.

“I had buried any hope of hearing the warm and vibrant sound that emerged from the section today,” he said after he had tried the new pit.

Now the sound was “truly gorgeous”, he said.

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Jarryd Hayne accused of rape in US while playing for 49ers

Parramatta Eels superstar Jarryd Hayne has been accused of raping a woman while he was in the US playing for the San Francisco 49ers, US court documents reveal.
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Civil lawsuit papers filed in the Santa Clara County court on Tuesday allege Hayne engaged in non-consensual sexual intercourse with a Santa Clara woman identified only as “Ms V” in December 2015.

The civil suit comes more than one year after the case was reviewed and rejected by the District Attorney’s Office, which concluded there was not enough evidence to prove the crime of rape beyond reasonable doubt.

The action filed this week includes claims of sexual battery, gender violence, infliction of emotional distress and negligence.

It is understood Hayne was flying back to Israel when news broke of the allegations.

The league star travelled to Israel earlier this month on a religious holiday, in an effort to strengthen his Christian faith, but returned to Australia halfway through the trip to celebrate his daughter’s first birthday.

Ramy Qutami from Madison Marcus Law Firm issued a statement on behalf of Hayne, who “unequivocally and vehemently” denied the claims.

“Mr Hayne and his management are aware of recent media speculation in relation to a civil complaint filed in the United States of America making certain allegations in relation to an event which allegedly occurred in 2015 whilst playing for the San Francisco 49ers,” Mr Qutami said.

“Mr Hayne has not been served with any proceedings or formal complaint relating to the incident.

“Mr Hayne previously addressed a complaint made to the District Attorney’s office in the County of Santa Clara, California in 2016 and the District Attorney did not proceed any further with the matter due to insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations. Mr Hayne provided all reasonable assistance to the District Attorney with that investigation.

“Mr Hayne unequivocally and vehemently denies the allegations which are the subject of the civil complaint. Mr Hayne will not be making any further comment in relation to this matter.” #jerusalemA post shared by Jarryd Hayne (@jarrydhayne38) on Dec 10, 2017 at 2:30am PSTAngel 1st bday.A post shared by Jarryd Hayne (@jarrydhayne38) on Dec 16, 2017 at 6:29am PSTJarryd Hayne documents by FairfaxPolitics on Scribd

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Homes of the HunterNewcastle WestPhotos

Homes of the Hunter | Newcastle West | Photos TweetFacebookX Files DVDS.
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“I bought the bookshelf from Ikea, and it adds a lot of character to the place,” Mitchell says.

“I don’t want to add colour for no reason. There was a lot of deliberation regarding the cushions on the couch. The black clock was Stephen’s. It’s just there for aesthetics. I took the battery out because the ticking was driving me nuts.”

Mitchell describes his room as being shaped like the Superman emblem, which is nicely complemented by his stand-up bass. Although he does play, he says it’s there for aesthetics. He has the smaller bedroom, but he gets the bigger bathroom.

“I like that there’s the rooftop, that’s sick,” Mitchell says. “Everyone shares that. It’s a nice view of the city, you can see the interchange.”

He’s adjusting to downsizing in space, but he says now it just feels like the whole house is his bedroom. They have a balcony with a view of the city where Ben likes to eat his breakfast. Here he’ll watch people test-riding new bikes as he’s right next to the bike shop.

“I think it works well because I have extremely weird, long, different hours,” Roberts says. “I don’t think my lifestyle would have worked with a 9-5 person. But me and Ben are pretty free-flowing. Last night at 1amBen asked me to buy some laundry detergent on my way home from the Roost.”

Mitchell isn’t just an illustrator, he also creates a comic series called Storm Clouds.

“My whole last comic was about living in a share house, and all the stuff that was really driving that narrative is no longer a part of my life,” Mitchell says.

“There’s nothing that I regret or dislike about that time of my life, but it’s interesting to see it on the page and starting a new chapter of my life with apartment living. In a share house no one feels like they own anything. We never decorated the living room because we’d have to check with everyone. Stephen enjoys anything I do to it. He loves the cushions. He loves the bookshelf.”

Mitchell loves holding rooftop dinner parties. However, when he first moved in, he had a bit of a mishap while cooking and sliced his finger open. Stephen ended up taking him to the hospital.

“If I had done this in my other house I would have died,” Mitchell says.

“Since Ben’s come along it’s added some character to the house,” Roberts says.

The apartment block just became open for residents earlier this year, and the space is a perfect example of modern urban living. Throw in Mitchell and Roberts with their unique personalities and creative endeavors, and Newcastle West becomes a little more interesting.

Have a home that could feature in Weekender? We’d love to see it.Email [email protected]南京夜网419论坛

Man charged over pursuit, hit-and-run

Newcastle courthouse POLICE say they have been looking for Matthew John Hollebone for months.
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Since September, Mr Hollebone, 32, of Karog Street, Blacksmiths, is accused of leading police on pursuits at Windale and Marks Point, a hit-and-run that left a man injured at Swansea in November and two instances of alleged predatory driving on a family member, during which Mr Hollebone rammed another vehicle.

And on Wednesday, the Lake Macquarie Target Action Group were alerted to a stolen vehicle parked in Hillsborough Road at Warners Bay.

They seized the vehicle and then, with the assistance of the NSW Police Dog Unit, raided a nearby hotel room, arresting three people, including Mr Hollebone.

Police searched the room and allegedly located an amount of methylamphetamine and $1000 in cash.

Mr Hollebone was arrested and later charged with 16 offences, including two counts of police pursuit, two counts of predatory driving, two counts of driving a stolen vehicle, failing to stop and assist after impact causing injury, reckless driving, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and break enter and steal.

Mr Hollebone, who was represented by Legal Aid NSW solicitor Rob Hussey in Newcastle Local Courton Thursday, pleaded not guilty to 14 charges, but admitted to possessing 2.3 grams of methylamphetamine and an ice pipe at the time of his arrest on Wednesday.

Mr Hollebone did not apply for bail and the matter was adjourned to February 22.Police allege he was behind the wheel during a number of dangerous acts of driving in the Lake Macquarie area over the past four months.

He is accused of leading police on a pursuit through Windale on October 26 and then again at Marks Point on December 18.

And during two days in late October he is accused of following and ramming into a family member’s car at Warners Bay and Marks Point.

He is also accused of breaking into a house at Bayview Street, Warners Bay in September and stealing numerous tools, a KTM motorcycle and a box trailer.

‘Gloopy American schmaltz’: Our review of Titanic, 20 years on

First published in the Sun-Herald on December 21,1997
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Here’s the skinny on the most expensive and possibly most anticipated movie of the year: Titanic doesn’t look like it cost $250 million. It’s half an hour too long, thanks to gloopy American schmaltz.

But, and it’s a big but, there are moments of suspense which will have even the blase digging their nails into the armrest. And the scenes involving the ship’s death throes are some of the most spectacular ever on screen.

So, does the average punter looking for a disaster movie extraordinaire, a 1990s Poseidon Adventure with whizzbang effects, get their money’s worth? Yes, indeedy. With a three hours-plus running time, what you get is almost two movies (romantic drama and action mayhem) in one.

It opens on a 1990s diamond-hunter (Paxton) who explores the wreck of the Titanic 12,000 feet below the North Atlantic’s surface.

That’s mostly an excuse for Aliens director James Cameron to flash some expensive hardware and give audiences some poignant footage of the real ship. (Cameron himself shot the deep-dive footage two years ago as a catalyst for his long-cherished project.)

The story centres on the discovery of well-born Rose, a survivor of the 1912 disaster. She tells the story, of her forbidden romance with a free-spirited artist (DiCaprio). So, cut to Cameron’s depiction of the world’s biggest luxury liner, the “unsinkable” Titanic: 269 metres in length (Cameron duplicated at 236 metres) and carrying 2,223 passengers.

Despite all the money thrown at the screen, the boat sometimes looks touched-up, fuzzy where it hits the water, noticeably round the stern. And the fatal iceberg looks like Styrofoam.

But the way Cameron’s camera roams so intimately round the first class private promenades and boxy third class quarters gives viewers a real sense of being on board.

Indeed, its immediacy, the way the pace steadily increases, the plot’s classic tragedy, makes this a movie which grabs viewers by the scruff of the neck and demands, “What would you do?”

It’s nice also to be given two characters whom you can unreservedly cheer on. As the cloistered 17-year-old, stifled by her upcoming wedding to a wealthy prat (Billy Zane), gorgeously gowned English rose Winslet is a beautiful rebel in traditional head-tossing mode.

Marvin’s Room drama genius DiCaprio occasionally takes the easy-smirking option but his impish approach (“This is bad”) is a shrewd link to younger viewers. Older viewers, if they’re not hooked by the lavish historical detail and rich gallery of characters, can enjoy arch performers like Kathy Bates as showgirl Molly Brown. Plus a story which perfectly captures the grim reality that in the 20th century, nothing in life – or technology – is certain.

Rating: M

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Bill Paxton

Critic’s Warning: Language, gunplay, mass fatalities.

Critic’s Rating: 8 out of 10.

First published in the Sun-Herald on December 21, 1997

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‘It really shouldn’t be this hard’: Residents fed up with contamination rhetoric

FRUSTRATED: Boolaroo resident Mark Hambier tried for months to find a place in the Hunter to dump lead soil from his yard and eventually gave up. Picture: Marina Neil THE chain of events that led to the unresolved debacle of where to dump up to a million tonnes of toxic lead soil from north Lake Macquarie was government by media release.
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Internal documents obtained byFairfax Mediaunder freedom of information laws reveal the Environment Protection Authority’s planwas all about big ideas and big announcements, but little or no solutions.

More than two years ago residents were promised a Hunter-based solution for dumping toxic soil created by the former Pasminco lead and zinc smelter. Today, they are still waiting.

Toxic Truth: The complete investigation into contamination at Boolaroo

While the politics of waste is normally eye-glazingly dull, this lead-fuelled stoush that has dragged in Newcastle City Council, Lake Macquarie City Council, the EPA and Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper has reached a point of high farce that would almost be entertaining if residents weren’t caught in the middle.

A frustrated Mr Piper said it was time theparties “worked together” to find a “sensible solution”.

“It really shouldn’t be this hard,” he said. “We’ve been arguing for this to happen for a long time and we still aren’t there, it’s disappointing to say the least.”

Boolaroo resident Mark Hambier wasted months trying to find a place to dump up to 50 tonnes of lead soil, but eventually gave up and decided to bury it on his property.For a development application to be considered in the contamination zone, residentsmust test and remediate thesoil.

“The whole thing was an absolute joke,” Mr Hambier said. “They make all these announcements about it, but can’t live up to their own promises. It’s likethey wantto be seen to be doing something, rather than actually doing it. They’ve made it that hard peoplewill just start dumping it illegally.”

When the smelter closed in 2003 it left large swathes of land in Boolaroo, Argenton and Speers Pointpolluted byheavy metals to be cleaned up at residents’expense.

With no tip in the region licenced to accept the soil, the EPA’s public push for a solution began in August 2015 when it announced Newcastle council was investigating building a containment cell for the waste at Summerhill tip.

Comment: The Boolaroo lead solutionis a terrible catch-22

But according to an email written in October this year, detailing Newcastle council’s involvement in the long-running saga, investigations revealed the initial proposal would not work.

“We looked at their requirements and advised we could not implement them in a cost effective manner,” council’s environmental compliance manager, Gavin Cooksley, wrote.

He went on to detail a series of approaches about the lead soil over years from the EPAfollowed by silence and then haste preceding the circulation of media releases.

According to Mr Cooksley’s email, the EPA contacted the council again in January 2016.

“The EPA were pushing for a speedy resolution,” he wrote. “We explained competing demands made it difficult to progress the project…We heard no further from the EPA on that proposal.”

Another approach was made almost a year later inDecember 2016. The expert working group appointed by the state government to investigate the contamination was due to report its finding to the then environment minister Mark Speakman.

The EPA knew the report was about to be made public and wanted to get on the front foot.

On December 14 the environmental watchdogemailed Newcastle council’s then chief executive Peter Chrystal asking for help.

“If we can quickly reach in principle agreement on this, we would like to have an ‘announceable’ for the Minister’s imminent receival of the Lead Expert Working Group’s report into lead contamination issues in the North Lake Macquarie area (as soon as next week),” an EPA representative wrote.

“Obviously the details would take some time to work through over the months ahead.”

Eight days later, on December 22,the EPA issued a media release telling residents they could dispose of the soil at Newcastle’s Summerhill tip from February.

The deadline came and went.

According to Mr Cooksley’s email, the council then “heard nothing” again from the EPA on the proposal until August 2017, “when it was again an urgent priority to resolve the approvals and commence receipt”.

“Once the approvals were finalised, the EPA released a media statement advising we would be able to accept the material a week later,” Mr Cooksley wrote.

The media release was issued onAugust 3 informing residents the soil would be accepted from August 14. What the media release failed to explain is just how the council planned to accept the soil.

In a letter to the EPA dated July 28, 2017 – six days before themedia release – council’s waste management manager Darren North detailed that due to the “small domestic type quantities expected” council would require the soil loaded into 800kg bulka bags.

“While this is practical for the small loads that have been indicated by the EPA, it must be notedthere have been strong indications that there is a high probability that large commercial loads from redevelopment activities are likely to arise,” he wrote.

“This is in contrast to the numbers and quantities previously discussed.”

In an email on August 8, Summerhill’s waste and landfill supervisor Oscar Gallagher warned against rushing the process.

“A rushed disposal is increasing concerns, rather than alleviating them – including my own, particularly regarding our legal responsibility to maintain a duty of care to employees and customers,” he wrote.

Under a trial change to the tip’s licence the EPA approved it to accept 2000 tonnes of lead soil over two years.

The council started accepting the waste in bulka bags from November which Mr Piper admits is not a “workable solution” due to the volume of soil some residents are trying to dispose of.

Earlier this month theEPA directed media requests about dumpinglead soil to Newcastle council and council directed requests about large loads to the EPA.

Genial bear still has plenty of charm

PADDINGTON 2 ??????????? G, 103 minutes, now showing in general release
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Director Paul King and the producers of the Paddington movies select their villains with great care.

In the first film, it was an implacable Nicole Kidman as a museum curator out to add Paddington’s hide to her collection. This time, it’s a monstrously vain Hugh Grant as Phoenix Buchanan, a once-celebrated actor reduced to starring in dog food commercials.

Valiantly displaying his willingness to play the fool in a good cause, Grant prances through the part as if born to it, assisted by an extensive assortment of props. Phoenix fancies himself a master of disguise, so he’s permitted fancy dress, false whiskers and silly walks.

This is actually meant to be Pooh Bear’s year. Now 91, he’s been honoured with an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum and a bio-pic of his creator, A. A. Milne, and his son, Christopher Robin.

But fans of Pooh’s friendly rival, Paddington, haven’t got the message and they’re sticking with their favourite. Paddington 2’s British box-office exceeded that of the original during its opening weekend and the reviewers have been equally enthusiastic.

It starts with a flashback recalling Paddington’s beginnings in the Peruvian jungle with his beloved Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo. Then it sets us down in London’s Windsor Gardens, where the bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is still enjoying life as part of the Brown family.

It’s a London we see only in fairytales – a perennially sunny village full of people who look as if they’re about to launch into a song-and-dance number. And all the regulars are back although there are one or two changes.

Hugh Bonneville is looking a little more harassed as Henry, the patriarch, who has missed out on an expected job promotion, and Sally Hawkins as Mary, his wife, is cherishing an unlikely ambition to swim the English Channel.

But Paddington is more popular than ever among all the Windsor Gardens residents. His only enemy is a crabby Peter Capaldi, the neighbourhood xenophobe, who would only be happy if everybody looked and behaved like him.

Things start to go awry when Paddington decides to give Aunt Lucy an expensive 100th birthday present – an antique pop-up book he’s found in the local antique shop. To raise the money, he takes an ill-fated job as a barber’s assistant, followed by a stint as a window cleaner.

And both supply the opportunity for a couple of gently choreographed slapstick routines, their appeal rooted in Paddington’s well-meaning disposition and his unfailing ingenuity.

Whishaw’s voice is perfect for him. There’s no cuteness in it. Nor is there any hint of the pumped up jollity that Disney likes to give its cartoon animals. It catches Paddington’s fragility and his stoicism, along with his determination. Best of all, he never says too much.

It’s at this point that Phoenix begins to screw things up, breaking into the antique shop and stealing the pop-up book. Paddington is blamed and sent to gaol, where we meet a new cast of characters, led by Brendan Gleeson as the fearsome Nuckles, the prison cook, who takes to Paddington after getting a taste of one of his marmalade sandwiches.

The performances are all pitch-perfect but even the sorry sight of Paddington languishing in a prison cell can’t disguise the fact that the story needs more tension. Kidman was genuinely scary but Grant’s mugging – accomplished as it is – fails to drum-up the slightest hint of menace.

Nor is it meant to. Action is the thing here. The denouement is a slapstick marathon scaled up to take in two steam trains and a sea plane, and although it’s as cleverly put together as you’d expect, it doesn’t set the pulse racing.

At least, the pulse of an adult who has seen hero and villain battle on the roof of a speeding train in countless other movies.

Young children, however, may see it differently and Paddington, who must have the most expressive eyes ever seen on a CGI animal, has such durable charm that the film’s shortcomings are overridden by its good-natured spirit.

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Church leadership denies any knowledge of predatory offender

Church leadership denies any knowledge of predatory offender Questions: Australian Christian Churches-affiliated Generation City Church at Hamilton where jailed child sex offender Christopher Bridge was a congregation member and former youth worker.
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History: Child sex offender Christopher Bridge moved to Newcastle and joined the Generation City Church after child sex allegations were reported to an affiliated church in Dubbo.

Conflict: Leading Australian Christian Churches and Hillsong church pastor Brian Houston leaving the royal commission after giving evidence about allegations against his father.

Investigation: The late Frank Houston who sexually abused a young church member.

TweetFacebook Australian Christian Churches denies knowledge of Hunter child sex offenderPentecostal church criticised in royal commission final report days after congregation member jailed AUSTRALIA’S largest Pentecostal Christian church has denied any knowledge of child sex allegations against a predatory church youth leader who was jailed only days before the churchwas criticised in the child abuse royal commission final report.

Christopher Laban Bridge, 69, of Yarramalong –a prominent member of the Generation City Church at Hamilton -was jailed on December 13 for sexually assaulting four boys at Assemblies of God churches in Dubbo and the Hunter in the 1970s and 1980s.

He moved to theHamilton church in the mid 1970s after a Dubbo victim’sparents reported Bridge’s sexual assaults to Dubbo Assemblies of God pastor, the late Jack Allsopp. No action was taken after the report, a court was told.

Australian Christian Churches (the former Assemblies of God) said it had no record of any child sexual abuse allegations against Bridge until 2014, despite a Hunter victim’s mother saying she told a senior church pastor in the early 1980s about her son’s description of explicit sex acts committed by Bridge.

“The first time the ACC movement was made aware of Christopher Bridge’s paedophile activities in the 1970s and 1980s was when a victim spoke of his experiences to an ACC pastor in October 2014,” a church spokesperson said on Wednesday.

But a Hunter victim backed his mother’s account, saying the failure of the senior church pastor to act had devastating consequences for him and his family.

“Bridge denied it andthe pastor said he didn’t believe my brother. I felt I had no choice but to move on and pretend the abuse against menever happened because nobody would believe us. It wrecked my relationship with my brother,” the Hunter victim said.

His brother abused serious drugs, was jailed for a drug-related assault and died only days before their 30thbirthday.

“My brother died and I suffered in silence for 30 years until I got a phone call from a detective,because we knew we wouldn’t be believed,” the victim said.

“It tears me to pieces that I didn’t speak back then. It’s still a huge regret of my life.”

He is outraged by a Federal Government proposal to deny compensation under the royal commission’s national redress scheme to child sex victims who have been jailed.

“That’s just another way ofsaying child sexual abuse doesn’t matter and doesn’t have consequences,” he said.

The victim and his mother were angry that Bridge was jailed for just three years for serious child sex offences because the court was required to sentence him according to the standards ofthe time.

In its statement the ACC said it had “rigorous policies and procedures in place” and was “committed to ensure that protection of children and youth is of highest priority”.

But the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse final report was critical of the ACC’s structure and procedures, after a public hearing into the handling of child sex allegations involving ACC’s flagship Hillsong Church.

The royal commission criticised the ACC’s grievance proceduring requiring child sex complaints to be made in writing, a process the commission found “gave priority to the protection of pastors over the safety of children”.

While the ACC had implemented a child protection policy and required adherence if churches wanted to remain affiliated, the commission found there was no formal audit process to check if churches and pastors were compliant.

The royal commission also heard the ACC had “no formal role in investigating” child sex allegations “because of the autonomy of local churches”.

It relied on local churches to take “appropriate action”.

The royal commission found the ACC, Hillsong Church andits pastor Brian Houston did not report child sex allegations against Mr Houston’s father, Frank Houston, to police or the NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People as required by legislation.

The royal commission found the child sexual abuse occurred.

Frank Houston’s victim told the commission he received “absolutely no support, counselling, apology or acknowledgement of the abuse”.

“I believe that Brian Houston and the other elders of Hillsong Church kept Pastor Frank’s history as quiet as they could and they have not been held accountable for how they handled my allegation,” the victim told the royal commission.

It found “inadequate” responses by ACC to child sex allegations because of “concern for reputation and avoidance of scandal, the autonomous nature of Pentecostal churches, the role of pastors in Pentecostal churches and the existence of conflicts of interest in Pentecostal churches”.

“Perhaps the most significant factor that affected institutional responses to allegations of child sexual abuse was the autonomous nature of Pentecostal churches, which meant that senior pastors had discretion about whether to adopt child protection policies, including in relation to the training, supervision and discipline of staff,” the royal commission found in its final report released two days after Christopher Bridge was sentenced.

Generation City Church Pastor Marty McCrindle said he was “shocked and saddened” when his former business partner, whom he met at a Hunter Christian cafe in 1979, was being investigated for child sexual abuse.

He said his church had“solid policies and procedures when it comes to the protection of children and young people”.

“I cannot comment on how such policies and procedures were followed by the church leadership when the said offences occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s as it appears that no documentation was made or kept by the then leadership of our church regarding Bridge,” Mr McCrindle said.