By ERWIN CHLANDA
The NT Government, while taking law enforcement to new heights, is moving to make it cheaper, in terms of time as well as money.
Scaled-back paperwork will keep cops on the beat rather than in front of a keyboard.
Defence and prosecution will need to stick their heads together before putting matters before the court.
And tracking bracelets are “a whole lot cheaper than $214 a day” – the cost of banging up people in gaol.
Both Chief Minister Adam Giles and Minister for Justice and Correctional Services John Elferink spoke about initiatives planned or under way in the adjournment debate yesterday.
Said Mr Giles said the need to “satisfy evidentiary and court purposes with onerous written accounts and reports sees police diverted from patrolling our streets into offices and sitting at computers.
“Early arrest can see police numbers migrate from the front line to the back office for the majority of the rest of their shift to do the paper work.
“It is at this time, particularly on an evening shift, that criminal behaviour escalates.
“I am convinced we can truncate the recording requirements without sacrificing the protections that written orders offer.”
Mr Elferink added that police officers should not “be tied up at a police station for an hour-and-a-half or two hours to process somebody for a simple street offence”.
He says that process should take “no longer than it takes to process a drunk [for protective custody] which is a few minutes.”
He said at present what police do, “by necessity, is move people on rather than apprehending them.
“Then you have, essentially, created a situation where you will be possibly be arresting that person a few hours later, perhaps at 3 am or 4 am, and that person will then be arrested for a serious crime, such as a serious assault. It is much better to get those types of people off the streets earlier in the evening.
“A system of, essentially, paperless arrest for minor offences would be a wonderful way to go. That is one of the processes we want to roll out.”
Mr Elferink said he has investigated landline and GPS based tracking bracelets used by the criminal justice system in South Australia.
He is clearly sold on the idea, suggesting SA’s infrastructure could be used in the NT, for a fee.
He said the technology is not only used for pinpointing a person’s location, but also for remote drug and alcohol testing: “So if a person is on bail or in some way at liberty after being sentenced by a court, we can police the condition that they do not consume alcohol and drugs by whacking a bracelet on them.
“These bracelets work in a number of ways and they can work to exclude people from particular areas as well as include them in particular areas.
“If the same system is being used by the police, corrections and the justice system, then that surely makes sense that you have one provider.
“The reason we continue to talk to the South Australian government at this stage, is why would we not work with them? This stuff is monitored, quite literally, in other countries so the people who run these systems have clients all over the world and they are run centrally either through Europe, the United States, or wherever.
“If a person breaches the condition of their restraint, the bracelet will know where they are. If they try to cut the bracelet off, then that is an offence in its own right and they can go back to prison,” said Mr Elferink.
“That is a good way to keep people out of custody. Is it expensive? I understand it is not going to be that cheap, but it is going to be a whole lot cheaper that $214 a day.
“The fact is, if people front up to courts and they already have jobs, then we can try to punish people with restraints on their liberty whilst they still go to work.”
Mr Giles outlined the raft of new law enforcement measures, in place already or in preparation, with a focus on prevention.
He said: “Prevention initiatives will always be more effective than treatment and we must radically improve our efforts with crime suppression and reduction.”
The measures Mr Giles listed:-
• give power to police to obtain a sample of saliva from a suspect to test for the presence of dangerous drugs;
• include the one punch homicide laws;
• protect people in their place of work, “those just doing their job” (such as ambulance crews);
• deal with the powers of police being able to enforce orders or conditions made, prohibiting persons from consuming alcohol and other drugs by testing for compliance;
• increase the levies on court imposed orders, infringement notices, and enforcement orders;
• provide for the continuing detention or supervised release of serious sex offenders who are deemed to be such a serious danger to the community that regulation of the offender is warranted post-sentence;
• and include the hotly debated alcohol protection orders “which will complement the government’s mandatory treatment initiative, which targets problem drinkers detected for the defined trigger level of protective custody incidents within a two-month period”.
Mandatory conferencing between defence and prosecution in the event of not guilty pleas has halved the number of court cases in Victoria, said Mr Elferink.
“Currently, what happens is a lawyer for the defence can walk into the court, as is their right, put their hand up on behalf of their client and say the client pleads not guilty, or the client themselves plead not guilty.
“That means a hearing date is set, or a contest mention is set aside and, as a consequence of that process, you then have a file going back to the police station [where] a file has to be prepared.
“As I witnessed again the other day in Nhulunbuy … there was an 11th hour change of plea to guilty, because there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the offender in that particular instance had actually committed the crime for which he stood indicted.
“So, the police had to run around, collect all the evidence – to what result?
“A guilty plea should have been made in the first place because of the acknowledgement of the guilt of the offender in that instance,” said Mr Elferink.
“Pretrial disclosure requires that both sides, basically, play with an open hand.”
PHOTO: Police keep crowd in check outside the courthouse during the Liam Jurrah trial.
Law enforcement: The bracelets that could save us money
By ERWIN CHLANDA