Annual Report 2017-2018 OmbudsmanNT
Tabled paper 934
Tabled Papers for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020; Tabled Papers; ParliamentNT
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8 Updating and ensuring the accuracy of corporate systems A number of cases have arisen where individuals have been taken into custody on the basis of faulty information or inadequate interrogation of information on police or court systems (see for example, Case studies 6 and 7 in Chapter 7 of this report). Sometimes this arises due to delay in data entry. In other cases, it arises from inattention to the details on the system. Wrongful arrest or detention undermines one of the fundamental liberties of our society. While delays and mistakes can occur, considerable effort should be put into system design and officer education to minimise the potential for such mistakes. Both NT Police and Court systems are in the process of redevelopment. This will hopefully address some instances but it is always incumbent on NT Police to do comprehensive checks and to bear in mind that errors can and do happen. De-escalation and arrest as a last resort The NT Police Arrest General Order makes it clear that arrest should be a last resort. A number of cases during the year raised the issue of when and how police interact with individuals in relation to minor matters, including public order matters (see, for example, Case studies 4, 5 and 8 Chapter 7 of this report). The reality is that police involvement can rapidly escalate a matter which in turn can lead to a requirement for greater police involvement. A complainant who has not initially done anything wrong or has committed a minor public order infraction may become more and more agitated as police intervene. The continuing involvement of police may exacerbate the situation to a point where the complainant commits an offence, or a more serious offence. Individuals may bait or antagonise police. The people police face will frequently be under the influence of drugs or alcohol or for other reasons feel compelled to offend or challenge authority. Their offence or abuse may lead to temptation on the part of officers to bait, antagonise or escalate in turn. This is a perfectly natural inclination but one which police must strive to guard against. Police must do their best to shrug off personal insult and judge what is best from the point of view of the public. Particularly in such public order situations, they should always give consideration to whether de-escalation or disengagement and maintaining watch are better options, at least in the first instance. I do not suggest that these are easy decisions for police. However, it is important that they be constantly aware that, particularly with regard to relatively minor public order offences, their own conduct can contribute to, and escalate, situations. ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY DEBTS In my report, Bills, Bills, Bills Essential Services Power and Water billing and debt management practices in an urban indigenous community (March 2016)3, I discussed how the Power and Water Corporation (PWC) had dealt with, and should deal with, billing and debt management for water supply to urban indigenous communities. This was in the context of a particular community that had incurred a substantial (some might say overwhelming) debt over a number of years. 3 Bills, Bills, Bills report discussed further in Chapter 4 of this report.