The courts are dealing with “at least 10” such cases a day, said Magistrate John Birch, as he sentenced a man for an drunken assault on his wife. Presumably he meant the Alice Springs Courts, where the daily figure of 10 would not surprise anyone used to looking up the lists.
In this case Mr Birch was inclined to impose a harsher penalty than the mandatory minimum of three months but he fully suspended the sentence. After completing the paperwork the man walked free, given a chance to try to get his life back on track. For it had been on track, for 40 years ... KIERAN FINNANE reports.
IMAGE: From a powerpoint titled Unnecessary Suffering, presented by Justice Jenny Blokland at the 2013 Bali Conference of the Criminal Lawyers Association of the NT, the graph shows the heavily disproportionate representation of Indigenous women (the red line) in domestic violence assaults.
It was apparently a normal day after the weekend before at the Alice Springs Magistrates Court, perhaps a little busier given that this was a long weekend. The word was also that there had been a recent royalty payment that had brought people into town.
The police prosecutor arrived in Courtroom Two with a trolley as big as a baby buggy, full of files. These were the fresh matters. The files in the stands on bar table were the matters already scheduled (13 domestic violence, two Smart Court, 59 criminal, and 11 Youth Court).
Half of the defendants were in the watchhouse, Magistrate John Birch was told. Only one lawyer is allowed in at a time, so there was a bottleneck with the paperwork. That was hardly surprising, said Magistrate Birch, given that there were 150 people on the list!
Defence lawyers, from Legal Aid and Aboriginal Legal Aid, milled around, attempting to bring matters on.
There was confusion over files. The court orderly was sent in search of other defence lawyers, returning to report that she couldn't find them. She also had to announce numerous non-appearances. Some of these matters were dealt with anyway ("ex parte"), the offenders convicted and fined, their files put away. Many matters were adjourned to allow time for defence lawyers to make representations to police prosecutions; others because the facts of the matter were to be contested.
In the midst of all this, some parties appeared and matters were heard – sorry tales that flesh out some of the offending behind the 'law and order' debate, tales of people, young and not so young, male and female, and their failings. On this day and for as much of the list as I observed all of the defendants were Aboriginal. This is not always the case. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
A youth charged with unlawful use of a motor vehicle – the same stolen vehicle that was allegedly used in relation to the alleged sexual assault of two European tourists last week – should not have been in Alice Springs.
The youth had come before Magistrate Greg Borchers in March on other matters and was ordered to live at an outstation with his grandparents, and not to leave unless he was ill, had permission of his parole officer or was in the company of those grandparents.
Today the court heard that the youth was arrested at another grandmother's house at a town camp in Alice Springs.
Magistrate Borchers, hearing a mention of the unlawful use of a motor vehicle charge in the Youth Justice Court today, urged the police to give "serious consideration" to charging the grandmother for "complicity" in assisting the youth to breach orders of the court.
Another youth, charged with two counts of sexual intercourse without consent and two counts of deprivation of liberty as well as a string of other offences, appeared briefly before Magistrate John Birch also in the Youth Justice Court today. KIERAN FINNANE reports.