Vale Pat Loftus


Patrick Loftus, one of the founders of CLANT, has died in Hong Kong, aged 70.  Pat practiced in Darwin from the 1970s, and successively headed the Darwin office of the Crown Solicitor for the Northern Territory (now ODPP) and the Australian Legal Aid Office (now NTLAC), before going on to establish the firm Loftus and Cameron. He won the sobriquet “Loopholes” (or “Loopy”) for his peculiar knack of identifying legal lacunae to the benefit of his clients, and gained the respect of his colleagues as a master of the no case submission.  He served as an office-bearer of the Northern Territory Law Society on several occasions, and then in 1986 joined Colin McDonald QC and Ray Minahan as the joint founders and self-appointed inaugural interim committee of the Criminal Lawyers Association of the Northern Territory.  After an unsuccessful tilt at politics, when he failed in a bid to enter the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, in 1988 he joined the Darwin bar, and went on, in 1997, to found Edmund Barton Chambers. 

By then he had already commenced to practice in the jurisdiction which he eventually made his home, Hong Kong, where in 1996 he had conducted the prosecution of the son of a police officer in a high-profile murder trial.  For some years, he simultaneously practiced and maintained homes in Darwin, Adelaide and Hong Kong, but eventually he relinquished his Australian clients and practiced exclusively in Hong Kong.  

As Hong Kong Director of Public Prosecutions Keith Yeung SC has commented:

Those of us who knew Pat would not forget that he was a conscientious but fair counsel who treated life seriously but at the same time with a good sense of humour… he was a gentleman to all around him … commanding the respect which he so rightly deserved.

We at CLANT send our condolences to Pat’s wife Peggy Lo, herself a Hong Kong prosecutor, and his daughters Katherine, Allyson and Susan.

Prison Songs

CLANT is proud to support the Darwin Festival multimedia live concert production of Prison Songs, which offers a rare glimpse into the lives of prison inmates shared through song.  Read more about Prison Songs and get your tickets here.



Summary procedure reform: have your say

Although the Justice and Other Legislation (Summary Procedure) Bill 2015 (NT) has already been tabled (the Bill, Explanatory Statement and Second Reading Speech are available here), the Northern Territory Department of Justice is continuing its consultations with the profession regarding the reform of summary justice procedure.

The Department will conduct seminars in Alice Springs (19 May 2015) and Darwin (22 May 2015) to outline the key changes to be made by the Bill, and to take any suggestions or comments on operational or technical matters.  For further information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

PS (31 May 2015):  CLANT has now had its say, here.

Plain English Legal Dictionary launched

In a joint project with Aboriginal Resource and Development Services (ARDS) and the North Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service has launched a “Plain English Legal Dictionary”.

The dictionary defines Northern Territory criminal legal terms using a style of English that closely matches the words, grammar, genre and structure of Aboriginal languages, and will be an invaluable resource for judicial officers, Aboriginal interpreters and legal professionals working with speakers of Aboriginal languages.

Indigenous Australians with mental health disorders and cognitive disabilities in Australian criminal justice system

The IAMHDCD (Indigenous Australians with mental health disorders and cognitive disabilities in Australian criminal justice system) Project is a large-scale community-based research study by the University of New South Wales. One of the principal research sites has been Alice Springs, where over 40 front-line workers from 22 services attended the recent launch of the next phase of the IAMHDCD Project.   

At the launch, there were calls for government to develop  a specific strategy to prevent people with cognitive impairments and mental health issues entering and re-entering the criminal justice system.

In a letter to to the Northern Territory Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, pdfCLANT has expressed its strong support for this initiative.

This is by no means a new issue for CLANT. The papers presented on this topic by CLANT members at both our 2013 and 2011 conferences are worth re-reading, both for their careful analysis and their sensible recommendations for reform.

Language and the Law II conference: Call for papers

Following the success of the first “Language and the Law” Conference in 2012, CLANT is proud to provide financial support to the second “Language and the Law” Conference, from 28 to 30 August 2015. 

Once again, the conference will be hosted by the Northern Territory Supreme Court, with an emphasis on issues that arise when interpreting languages spoken in the Northern Territory and similar issues that impact on communication in the courts and associated legal processes. 

Here are pdfmore details.  You can express interest in either pdfattending or pdfpresenting a paper

NAAJA challenges 'paperless arrests' in High Court

With the support of a pro bono team co-ordinated by the Human Rights Law Centre, the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency has commenced proceedings in the High Court challenging the validity of the Northern Territory's recently introduced "paperless arrest" provisions.  NAAJA has previously been critical of these laws, and so has CLANT.

The Bill that introduced the impugned provisions of the Police Administration Act (NT) (Part VII Division 4AA "Taking person into custody for infringement notice offence"), together with the associated Explantory Memorandum and Second Reading Speech, is here.

2015 Bali Conference Draft Program

The Bali conference organising committee is pleased to publish the draft pdfConference Program.    

CPD: One Day Intensive (Alice Springs)

The Law Society Northern Territory presents a One Day Intensive on 7 March 2015 for Alice Springs practitioners. Registration details are pdfhere

CPD: Criminal Law in Practice

Legalwise is presenting a seminar with Jonathon Hunyor ("Mental Impairment and the Criminal Law: Fitness to Stand Trial and Criminal Responsibility") and David Morters ("Criminal Law: Recent Developments") in Darwin on 26 February 2015.  CLANT members can receive a 10% discount by enrolling with pdfthis Registration Form.

CPD: "Traps in Criminal Procedure"

As part of the NTBA Readers’ Course,  Professor Ross Martin QC is presenting a session in Darwin titled "Traps in Criminal Procedure" on 6 March 2015, to be repeated on 7 March 2015.  Registration details are pdfhere.


Bali conference to stay in Bali

For 30 years, CLANT has held its biennial conference in Bali, interrupted only once, in the months following the 2002 Bali bombings, when for reasons of security, the conference was moved to Port Douglas. We have scheduled the fifteenth Bali conference to be held at the Sanur Beach Hotel in Bali from 20 to 26 June 2015.

The recent spate of executions in Indonesia, with the threat of further judicially sanctioned killings has outraged the Australian and indeed the international legal community, and is of deep and acute concern to CLANT.  Some of our members and supporters have urged us to relocate the conference away from Indonesia, as a sign of that concern.  In response, the CLANT Committee has sought and received advice from our proposed conference speakers, our members and senior members of the legal community, including the judiciary, past CLANT Presidents, and CLANT Life Members. 

Passionately expressed, impeccably argued and widely divergent views have been expressed, but there is a very substantial majority (much more decisive than a vote of, say, 61 to 39) in favour of retaining the arranged venue, and accordingly we now confirm it.  We have had regard to, inter alia, the following considerations, distilled from the responses we have received, for which we are grateful:

  • CLANT members abhor and deplore capital punishment, wherever it is practiced
  • The issue of capital punishment in Indonesia is of particular current concern, because of the Executive’s recent decision to execute a large number of drug offenders on death row, including Australian offenders who have been represented by some of our own members
  • It is incumbent on CLANT to “send a message” that these executions are unacceptable to us
  • Changing the venue is unlikely to have any significant effect in influencing the Indonesian Government to change its policy
  • Moving the conference would give rise to a perception that CLANT parochially and unfairly places a higher value on the lives of Australian drug offenders than offenders from other countries
  • Moving the conference would unfairly single out Indonesia, one of many countries in  the region (including, it is to be noted, Australia) with an unsatisfactory human rights record  
  • Moving the conference now would be inconsistent with our long-standing commitment to maintaining the conference in Bali, over a period in which various Indonesian regimes have pursued policies with which CLANT members have strongly disagreed
  • Moving the conference from Bali would adversely effect the Balinese tourism industry
  • If we move the conference from Bali, a precedent will be set which may well result in us never returning
  • Holding the conference in Bali affords CLANT the opportunity to continue to engage with our colleagues in the Balinese and Indonesian legal community
  • Changing the venue would cause significant inconvenience and expense to CLANT members who have already made their travel arrangements, and to CLANT itself, which has already contracted with the conference venue

Many of the responses we have received urged us to include in the conference program a session dealing with the issue of capital punishment, featuring speakers from the Indonesian legal community. Although the organising committee is mindful that this would entail a risk of harmfully ruffling feathers, we are seriously considering amending the program as has been proposed.

The Fitzgeralds: Nominations Extended

A message from NT Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Sally Sievers:

I am pleased to be able to let you know that time to nominate yourself, an individual or organisation for the Inaugural NT Human Rights Awards has been extended until 6 November 2014.

We would love to receive nominations from a broad cross section of the Northern Territory community. Please take the time to nominate a friend, colleague or service.

Our website is up and running with an easy to complete electronic form, background on the Awards and why they are called The Fitzgeralds.

I am also pleased to announce that the third member of the Judging Panel joining myself and Judge Jenny Blokland is Professor Ned Aughterson, Head, School of Law at CDU.

We are looking forward to being flooded with your nominations.

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