By KIERAN FINNANE
A man sentenced today in the Supreme Court in Alice Springs to six months imprisonment had already been in custody for 12. While in custody he suffered a serious assault at the hands of another prisoner (since sentenced for the offence) and spent the rest of his time in gaol in “protection”, which in fact means lockdown for 22 hours a day.
“The system has failed,” said Chief Justice Trevor Riley (pictured).
He asked counsel for an explanation about why the man had been allowed to languish for so long in custody. Some of it was due to the man having withdrawn his instructions from Legal Aid, apparently having become disillusioned with what was being done for him. But the guilty plea he entered today was the same as one he offered to make in December last year.
While it was too late to do anything for the man in question, “what do we have to do to ensure this doesn’t happen again?” asked CJ Riley.
Prosecuting counsel said he would write to his director to pass on the Chief Justice’s concerns.
The man is a migrant from India who has since married an Australian woman. She was with him today in court and has supported him throughout the proceedings. He pleaded guilty to assault and two offences of allowing the exposure of a child under 16 years to indecent material. The material was a pornographic video on his mobile phone, shown to the then 13 year old girls by an older girl while all of them were in the man’s flat where he was cooking for them. “You failed to exercise proper control over the material,” CJ Riley said in his sentencing remarks.
The assault consisted of the man, on a separate occasion, touching one of the girls above the knee with a massaging movement but he withdrew his hand when she told him to.
The girls were known to the man through his wife’s family and they had frequently been shown hospitality by the couple, according to defence counsel.
CJ Riley said there was no suggestion that the man had been “grooming” the girls for another purpose. He said the assault had been a “fleeting incident” and the offending was at the lower end of the scale.
His final remark was to again “express concern” that the proceeding had taken so long to come to the Supreme Court and that the man had remained in custody for such a lengthy period.
By KIERAN FINNANE