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.