news

Jeffrey Epstein's Australian victim, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, was just 16 when he allegedly groomed her, & more in News in 5.

-With AAP.

1. Jeffrey Epstein’s Australian victim, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, was just 16 when he allegedly groomed her.

The arrest of billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein in New York on child sex trafficking charges is the latest step in a long, emotionally-brutal battle for one of his alleged victims who moved to Australia as a 19-year-old when she believes she became “too old” for him.

Virginia Roberts Giuffre has been one of Epstein’s most vocal accusers, alleging he recruited and groomed her as a 16-year-old in Florida to have sex with him and other rich and powerful men.

Giuffre, now 35, broke away from Epstein when she married an Australian man in 2003, settled in Queensland and had three children.

Epstein, 66, appeared in a New York court on Monday dressed in a blue jail jumpsuit and entered not guilty pleas to counts of sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors.

Ghislaine Maxwell prince andrew
Prince Andrew photographed with Virginia Giuffre, with Epstein's alleged 'partner' Ghislaine Maxwell in the background. Image: Twitter.

"Finding the words adequate enough now to express how I feel is a tall task," Giuffre, in a statement released to AAP by her lawyer Sigrid McCawley, said.

"But I can say, without hesitation, that I am deeply pleased that federal prosecutors in New York have arrested Jeffrey Epstein and are on the case in a serious way.

"It is time for Jeffrey Epstein and those who participated and enabled his sex crimes to be brought to true justice."

Fellow accuser Sarah Ransome said in a statement that his recent arrest was "a step in the right direction" for holding him accountable.

Speaking to a press conference about the new charges, US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said Epstein's alleged victims deserved their day in court.

ADVERTISEMENT

"The alleged behaviour shocks the conscience, and while the charged conduct is from a number of years ago, it is still profoundly important to the many alleged victims, now young women," he said.

Berman said a search of Epstein's Manhattan mansion uncovered evidence including nude photographs of what appeared to be underage girls.

He encouraged other victims to come forward and contact prosecutors.

Epstein was arrested on Saturday after his private plane landed in New Jersey after a flight from Paris.

The indictment alleges Epstein, between 2002 through 2005 in New York and Florida, sexually exploited and abused dozens of underage girls by enticing them to engage in sex acts with him in exchange for money.

His victims were as young as 14, according to prosecutors.

Epstein allegedly worked with several employees and associates "to ensure that he had a steady supply of minor victims to abuse, and paid several of those victims themselves to recruit other underage girls to engage in similar sex acts for money".

He faces more than 40 years in prison if convicted.

Epstein also faced a lengthy prison sentence amid similar allegations in Florida in 2007 but managed to strike a lenient deal allowing him to plead guilty to two state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution.

He served 13 months in Palm Beach County jail, where he was housed in a private wing and was allowed to spend up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, on work release away from the prison.

Known for socialising with politicians and royalty, Epstein once had friends including US President Donald Trump and former president Bill Clinton, and according to court papers, Britain's Prince Andrew. None of those people were mentioned in the indictment.

Giuffre told the The Miami Herald, which says it was able to identify nearly 80 girls who allegedly were molested by Epstein during an investigation, when she turned 19 in 2003 it became clear Epstein had lost interest in her because she "was too old for him".

She said she convinced him to pay for training to become a professional masseuse so she could move on with her life.

Epstein arranged for her to fly to Thailand to take a massage class but he instructed her to pick up a Thai girl he had arranged to come to the US, the Herald reported.

Giuffre did not follow the plan.

She met an Australian man in Thailand, married soon after, settled in Queensland and the couple has three children.

Giuffre said the FBI called her in Australia in 2007 to ask about Epstein, but she was not certain the call was legitimate.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Then about six months later I get a knock at the door and it is the Australian Federal Police," she told the Herald.

"There was a 12-page document about Jeffrey Epstein and what he had done and how I was a victim."

Giuffre went public with her claims against Epstein after the birth of her daughter.

She hopes other victims of abuse also go public "whenever you are ready to do it".

"It took me having a daughter and looking at this beautiful, young, innocent baby to say 'I want to speak out about it now'," she said.

2. One in 20 Australian Year 10 students 'try ecstasy'.


One in 20 Year 10 students have tried ecstasy, an Australian drug educator has told an inquest into NSW music festival deaths.

"It just baffles me," Paul Dillon said in Sydney on Tuesday.

"Certainly amongst young people, MDMA is the drug of the moment."

The founder and director of Drug and Alcohol Research and Training - who educates students across the country - said it was "ludicrous" to think pill testing would suddenly put a stop to drug deaths.

But, he said, Australia needs to do something.

"At the moment we are flying blind and when something happens, something does go amiss and we do have a spate of deaths ... it's like, what is happening here?" he said.

Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame is examining the drug-related deaths of six young people at NSW music festivals between December 2017 and January 2019.

Nathan Tran, Diana Nguyen, Joseph Pham, Callum Brosnan, Joshua Tam and Alexandra Ross-King all died from MDMA toxicity or complications of MDMA use. They were aged between 18 and 23.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mr Dillon spoke with more than 120,000 high school students in 2018.

"This year has been a very, very hard year with the number of young people who have approached me, very concerned about their friends who are taking huge amounts of drugs. Numbers like I haven't heard before."

He said Australia has "nothing even close" to the early warning systems employed in some European countries including onsite and offsite drug checking services.

The most important part of the substance testing is the conversation the potential user has at the service, such as being told "we have no idea what this will do to you", he said.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Peggy Dwyer, asked: "No user is ever told that the drug that they have tested is safe?"

"No," Mr Dillon replied.

The former teacher said the best outcome would be to create an independent agency, such as the Drug Information and Monitoring System in The Netherlands, to conduct press conferences and deliver drug warnings and information to young people.

Young people "believe people in white coats" such as emergency doctors rather than law enforcement officers who tend to be disbelieved, he said.

"Anything that comes of this, whatever package it is, most probably the most crucial aspect of it is developing the messaging that goes with the suite of stuff that gets created," Mr Dillon told the coroner.

"There's so much work to be done and certainly we haven't done that for a long time."

The inquest is running for two weeks with further hearings expected in September.

3. Seven more people dead from flu in Western Australia.

ADVERTISEMENT


Flu reports to Western Australia's Health Department have decreased in the past week but remain much higher than peaks in previous seasons.

WA recorded seven flu-related deaths last week, taking the state's toll to 48 so far this year, according to figures released on Tuesday.

There have been 17,640 laboratory-confirmed infections so far this year, a huge spike from 1810 at this time last year.

There have been 1837 hospitalisations compared to 340 for the same period last year.

"Some of these numbers would reflect that more people than in previous years are getting tested," a Health Department spokeswoman said.

"Therefore, we need to look at the trends, not the numbers."

The spokeswoman said the notifications of laboratory-confirmed flu were higher than in previous years but the proportion of those who were hospitalised or died was below that seen in the past 10 years.

Data showed 11 per cent of confirmed cases had been hospitalised, compared to an average of 23 per cent in the previous 10 years.

Deaths were at 0.3 per cent compared to an average of 0.7 per cent for the same period.

"The influenza strains circulating this year are not different to previous years, we are just seeing higher infection rates," the spokeswoman said.

The flu season began this year about two months earlier than in previous years.

4. Hong Kong's extradition bill declared 'dead'.


Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says the extradition bill that sparked the Chinese-ruled city's biggest crisis in decades is dead and that government work on the legislation had been a "total failure", but critics accuse her of playing with words.

ADVERTISEMENT

The bill, which would allow people in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China to face trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, sparked huge and at times violent street protests and plunged the former British colony into turmoil.

In mid-June, Lam responded to protests that drew hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets by suspending the bill, but that did not stop demonstrations that shut government offices and brought parts of the financial centre to a standstill.

Her latest attempt to restore order did not satisfy many protesters who stood by demands that she completely withdraw the bill.

"There are still lingering doubts about the government's sincerity or worries whether the government will restart the process in the Legislative Council," Lam told reporters on Tuesday.

"So, I reiterate here, there is no such plan, the bill is dead." The government's work on the bill had been a "total failure", she said.

The bill triggered outrage across broad sections of Hong Kong society amid concerns it would threaten the much-cherished rule of law that underpins the city's international financial status.

Critics of the extradition bill fear Beijing could use it to crack down on dissent.

University students who have been out in force during the protests denounced Lam's comments.

Demonstrators have also called for Lam to resign as Hong Kong chief executive, for an independent investigation into police actions against protesters, and for the government to abandon the description of a violent protest on June 12 as a riot.

China has called the protests an "undisguised challenge" to the "one country, two systems" model under which Hong Kong is ruled.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, asked about Lam's remarks, referred to the central government's statement on June 15 supporting Hong Kong's decision to shelve the extradition bill. He said he had nothing further to add.

Chief executives of Hong Kong are selected by a small committee of pro-establishment figures stacked in Beijing's favour and formally appointed by China's central government. Lam's resignation would require Beijing's approval, experts say.

Lam said the June 12 protest, which saw police fire tear gas, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds at demonstrators, had not been given a label, but reiterated any decision to prosecute would be one for the justice department.

"Any demand that we should run an amnesty at this stage, that we will not follow up on investigations and prosecutions of offenders is not acceptable, because that bluntly goes against the rule of law in Hong Kong," she said.

"My sincere plea is: Please give us an opportunity, the time, the room, to take Hong Kong out of the current impasse and try to improve the current situation."

ADVERTISEMENT

5. President Donald Trump violated the US Constitution by blocking people on Twitter when he didn't agree with them.

President Donald Trump violated the US Constitution by blocking people whose views he disliked from his Twitter account, a federal appeals court has ruled.

In a 3-0 decision, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan says the First Amendment forbids Trump from using Twitter's "blocking" function to limit access to his account, which has 61.8 million followers.

"The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilises a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees," Circuit Judge Barrington Parker wrote, citing several Supreme Court decisions.

Neither the White House nor the US Department of Justice immediately responded to requests for comment. The White House social media director Dan Scavino is also a defendant. Twitter had no immediate comment.

Trump has made his @RealDonaldTrump account a central and controversial part of his presidency, using it to promote his agenda and to attack critics.

His use of the blocking function was challenged by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, as well as seven Twitter users he had blocked.

"The decision will help ensure the integrity and vitality of digital spaces that are increasingly important to our democracy," Jameel Jaffer, the Knight institute's executive director, said in a statement.

Tuesday's decision upheld a May 2018 ruling by US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan, which prompted Trump to unblock some accounts.

The Justice Department has called her ruling "fundamentally misconceived", saying Trump used Twitter to express his views, not to offer a public forum for discussion.

Parker, however, said Trump's account bears "all the trappings of an official, state-run account" and is "one of the White House's main vehicles for conducting official business".

He said Trump and his aides have characterised the president's tweets as official statements and that even the National Archives views the tweets as official records.

Parker also found it ironic that Trump censored speech during a time when the conduct of the US government and its officials was subject to intense, passionate and wide-open debate.

"This debate, as uncomfortable and as unpleasant as it frequently may be, is nonetheless a good thing," he wrote. "We remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavoured speech on matters of public concern is more speech, not less."

00:00 / ???