NT Under Fire

The Chief Minister in the Northern Territory has taken to social media to decry the “rogue youth” in his territory and the need to crack-down upon them by removing the presumption of bail that applies to them.

 Adam Giles wrote,

Enough is enough.

We give rogue youth every chance, but they still break in to our homes, smash up our cars and cause trouble.

They commit crimes, then they get bail, they commit more crimes, then they use diversion and it goes on and on… but we still end up getting our houses broken in to and our cars smashed up, and everything else.

Despite strong police action, a very active minority continues to reoffend.
The Police are doing a great job, but the legislation is letting us down.

So, in Cabinet today we’re considering legislation that says no longer will bad youths be given the presumption of bail.

The reason we’re doing this – we hear what’s going on in your community.

We try and do the right thing by youth.

Nobody wants to see a kid in jail, but nobody wants to see our cars getting smashed up and our houses getting broken in to.

That’s it. Had enough.

‪#‎NTpol‬

He has, clearly, had enough.
In the Northern Territory, young people are subject to the same legislation for bail as adults and bail legislation overrides anything contrary contained in youth justice legislation (which usually contains special provisions dealing with the exceptional nature and special needs of juveniles and the self-evident preference that they not be consigned to languish in gaols while the judicial process is undertaken).
However, under section 22 of the Youth Justice Act (Northern Territory) a young person must not be charged and remanded in custody unless the is a threat to the community, likelihood of reoffending or that they wouldn’t appear at court or that there is an issue of harm for the child concerned.
Queensland, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory are the only jurisdictions that have separate considerations for bail applications by young people. These are generally very similar to bail considerations in other jurisdictions’ bail legislation and typically focus on the protection of the community, the likelihood of further offending (which is in part connected to the first consideration) and the interests of the child concerned.
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The post published by Adam Giles yesterday on Facebook. Showing Police (presumably) cracking down on youth.

According to ABC News Online, Russell Goldflam, who is the president of the NT Criminal Lawyer’s Association, suggested this was an example of “gearing up for an election and beating the old law and order drum”.

“You don’t make policy by social media … surely even our politicians aren’t so crazy,” he said.

The reality is that there is no formal presumption in favor of bail for youths in the Northern Territory. There is a requirement that children not be charged and remanded in custody except in particular circumstances. If those circumstances are met, then the youth can make a bail application in accordance with the same laws that apply to all adults (under that state’s Bail Act).

So suggesting there is a presumption may be a little too much of straw-man arguing. The reality is children should not be kept in a prison or detention centre unless there is no other option available. This is particularly so in times when youth unemployment and the tragic circumstances of many young people who come before the courts appears to be heightened by and fraught with social issues of incredible complexity.

It is also an ugly discourse to engage in – using children as the bait and switch for a law-and-order/who-is-toughest-on-crims is, at the least, undignified.

In the meantime, the “discourse” or “debate” shall continue, no-doubt, informed by social media comments and the ever-present “like” button on Facebook. It does reveal the extent to which politics in Australia now involves floating policy concepts on social media platforms with a hashtag “NTpol”.

I wonder what the Human Rights Commissioner might say..?

Aaron Kernaghan

http://www.kernaghanandassociates.com.au