CLANT provides additional further assistance to Titus Ani

CLANT has previously provided some $45,000 to support the pro bono legal team acting to save the life of Nigerian national Titus Ani, who is on death row in Indonesia.  At its meeting on 16 April 2014, following a detailed briefing and update of the case from Colin MacDonald QC, the CLANT Committee unanimously resolved to provide a further $15,000 to this cause. 

Summary Procedure Reform

CLANT has made this Submission to the Northern Territory Government in relation to the Justice and Other Legislation Amendment (Summary Procedure) Bill  2014. CLANT supports the Bill's key aim of reforming the summary justice system to make it more efficient, in particular by having more cases settle, and at an earlier stage.  CLANT also supports the conferral of powers on magistrates to provide sentence indications and sentencing discounts of up to 40% for early pleas.

However, CLANT opposes the remainder of the Bill, which contains serious flaws and deals with procedural matters which, in CLANT’s submission, are best left to the court itself to manage.  As previously reported here, those matters are currently regulated by Practice Direction No. 4 of 2014, which was issued by the Chief Magistrate following detailed and comprehensive consultation with stakeholders, including CLANT. In CLANT's view, the Bill should be delayed at least until a reasonable opportunity has been provided to gauge the effectiveness of the Practice Direction.    

APH Inquiry into the harmful use of alcohol

CLANT has made this Submssion to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs Inquiry into the harmful use of alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including these Recommendations:

  • This inquiry urge the Northern Territory Government to reinstate the Banned Drinkers Register
  • This Inquiry urge the Northern Territory Government to immediately provide access to data compiled by the NT Police and Department of Health which would enable the effect of the abolition of the Banned Drinkers Register to be independently evaluated
  • This Inquiry support the tiered volumetric taxation of alcohol, as recommended by the Henry Review.
  • This Inquiry urge the Northern Territory Government to fix a floor price for the purchase of alcohol.
  • This inquiry urge the Northern Territory Government to take the following measures in relation to the Alcohol Mandatory Treatment scheme:
    • Amend the AMT Act to:
      • guarantee legal representation for people appearing before the AMT Tribunal
      • remove all criminal sanctions for breaching AMT tribunal orders
      • clarify and limit the exercise of police powers of apprehension for the purposes of the operation of the AMT scheme
      • provide effective judicial review of decisions made in the assessment phase of the AMT scheme
    • Institute an independent evaluation of the AMT scheme and Act
  • This inquiry urge the Northern Territory Government to abolish the Alcohol Protection Order scheme.
  • This Inquiry invite the NT Police to explain the legal basis on which police exercise their powers under the Temporary Beat Locations program.
  • This Inquiry urge the Northern Territory Government to immediately provide access to data compiled by the NT Police and Department of Health, including data in relation to the cost of maintaining the program, which would enable the Temporary Beat Locations program to be independently evaluated.

NT contributors to ALJ sought

A message from Acting Justice Dean Mildren:

For some time there has been criticism of the ALJ because it is said to be too focused on NSW. The ALJ has decided to remedy this by establishing State and Territory editors to provide local input on matters which would be of interest to a wider readership. I have accepted the position of the NT editor. The NT will be able to publish items of interest twice annually. The items could be anything from a full article (if the matter was sufficiently noteworthy) or could be a series of short pieces dealing with such matters as latest cases, changes to practice and procedure, personalia (eg latest judicial or magisterial appointments, latest silks etc), proposed bills etc etc. Obviously material having an international focus would also be very welcome, eg matters having an NT connection with East Timor, Indonesia or anywhere else.

I am looking for people who would be interested in being contributors. 
At the moment I cannot say when our time slots will become available except that the first slot will definitely be this year, and I would like to make our first offerings relatively soon.
If you wish to become a contributor, please contact CLANT, and we will forward your message to Dean Mildren (NT Editor, ALJ).

Bell J on Sentencing and the Separation of Powers

CLANT Patron Justice Virginia Bell delivered the third biennial Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Lecture on 20 March 2014 at Darwin. In her lecture, Bell J explored recent High Court decisions (including Elias v The Queen (2013) 248 CLR 483, Bugmy v The Queen (2013) 302 ALR 192 and James v The Queen [2014] HCA 6), in which the Court has developed and applied sentencing principles in the context of the distinctively Australian doctrine of separation of powers.

If you were unfortunate enough to miss Justice Bell's Lecture, pdfhere it is.

Criminal law reform issues update: March 2014

In March 2014, the Department of the Attorney-General and Justice presented Information Sessions on current Northern Territory law reform issues.  If you missed the session conducted in your area, you can catch up by reading this presentation (reproduced by permission of DoA-G&J), adapted here to cover only criminal law reform issues and the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT).

CPD: Sentencing Federal Offenders

CLANT presents a lunchtime CPD from 1 to 2 pm on 10 April 2014 at William Forster Chambers on Sentencing Federal Offenders.

Free to CLANT members (lunch provided).  And here's a bargain:  you can join CLANT at the door for just $20.

For further details, click here.

Summary Procedure Case Management

Following detailed consultation with the profession, on 17 March 2014 Chief Magistrate Lowndes issued Practice Direction No. 4 of 2014 to expedite and  facilitate the effective case management of summary matters. Key features of the procedures are improved prosecution disclosure (by way of a requirement to serve a ‘preliminary brief’ at an early stage of proceedings); and case conferencing to encourage parties to identify and narrow issues in contention and, where possible, settle matters in a timely manner. These new procedures apply only in the Darwin Court of Summary Jurisdiction, at least for the time being.

Third Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Lecture

Please note change of time from 6.00 pm to 5.30 pm

Bell J Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Lecture

Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Act Review

CLANT has made this submission to the Review of the Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Act.  The submission focusses on the following five issues:

  1. The AMT Act review process, being conducted by the Department of Health, is not independent and lacks transparency.
  2. Persons being brought into the rehabilitation scheme are subject to powers which can be exercised arbitrarily and effectively in an unfettered and regulated fashion.
  3. The assessment process is a vehicle for injustice and can result in a person being deprived of their liberty with no effective judicial oversight.
  4. Persons are appearing before the Tribunal without representation and are being denied natural justice and therefore unable to participate fully in the decision making process which can deprive them of their liberty.
  5. Criminal sanctions attaching to the program operate counter-therapeutically and serve to undermine the purposes of the AMT Act.

Powers to order random drug and alcohol testing confirmed

Amendments to the Bail Act and the Domestic and Family Violence Act, together with associated Regulations, come into force on 5 February 2014.  Here is an extract from the Second Reading Speech:

Amendments to the Bail Act are necessary as a number of magistrates have been refusing to order tests and conditions which would oblige a person to undergo compliance testing such as a breath analysis that seeks to ensure they are complying with a condition that they not consume alcohol. The refusal to make these orders arose following a decision of a single judge in the New South Wales Supreme Court in Lawson v Dunlevy [2012] NSWSC 48.

...These amendments will put beyond doubt the ability of courts and police to make domestic violence orders and bail conditions that seek to ensure compliance with other orders and conditions.

Apology to Hon John Elferink, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice

I apologise to the Northern Territory Attorney-General, John Elferink, for the offence to him caused by my column published in the January 2014 edition of Balance.  Mr Elferink has specifically taken umbrage at the superimposition of the article (which included criticism of a comment he had made) on a photograph depicting a crowd of people delivering the Nazi salute.  As Mr Elferink courteously but firmly explained to me, it was offensive to associate him in this way with the Nazi regime, notwithstanding the following express assertion in the text of the article:

I am [not] worried that we are sliding towards fascism. I have no doubt that John Elferink is sincerely committed to securing the peace, order and good government of the Northern Territory, and moreover, I accept that his concerns [regarding the administration of the Serious Sex Offenders Act 2013] are both clear and proper: the protection of the community, and the protection of the public purse.

Despite that statement, the fact remains that I caused offence.  Like the Attorney, I believe in robust debate, but on reflection I agree that to publish my article in conjunction with the photograph as I did was an error of judgement on my part, and has been personally hurtful.  It was not my intention to wound, and I am embarrassed to now realise that this was the effect of my publication.  For that I unreservedly apologise.

Russell Goldflam
President, CLANT

It's a Gong! Sally Thomas AC

CLANT congratulates Her Honour the Honourable Sally Gordon Thomas AC, who in the Australia Day 2014  Honours List was made a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia "for eminent service to the people of the Northern Territory, particularly to the judiciary and social justice, to the advancement of women in the legal profession, to youth, and to the promotion and development of tertiary education".

Her Honour was appointed in 2011 as Administrator of the Northern Territory, after distinguished service over a period of more than two decades as a Northern Territory judicial officer, including seven years as Chief Magistrate, followed by 17 years as a Judge.

Sally Thomas is a much admired and much loved member of the Northern Territory legal community.  This high honour is a fitting acknowledgment of her achievements and contributions.

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