Territory Stories

Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 May 1995



Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 May 1995

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Parliamentary Record 11


Debates for 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Tuesday 23 May 1995 Parliamentary scrutiny is an important check on officers such as the Director of Public Prosecutions. On the one hand, the Assembly is able to raise questions and even to investigate whether he is misbehaving in terms of his performance. On the other hand, the Attorney-General has powers to second-guess him. It would be embarrassing for the DPP if the Attorney-General were to initiate action where the DPP would not. I gather that the Attorney-General has the power to appeal a case even if the DPP does not wish to. I believe he has that independent power and can initiate the action, presumably through the Solicitor-General. Thus, the DPP ... Mr Bell: Check section 28 of the act. Mr PERRON: ... has that person running alongside of him with equal powers with which to second-guess him, and there are judges who can say whatever they like about his performance before them. There are a number ... Mr Bell: Look at section 28(2)! Mr PERRON: I will come to that in just a second. I wanted to touch on Justice Mary Gaudrons points that were raised by the member for MacDonnell. That judge said that a public prosecutor has more control over life, liberty and reputation than any other person, if it is a correct quote from her ... Mr Bell: You are arguing on my side. Mr PERRON: ... and that there is no effective review of the exercise of disciplinary powers by the DPP. The courts have only a limited role in this respect, and the DPP, established in his statutory framework, is insulated from the oversight of the Attorney-General. However, the judge acknowledges that the statutory framework has advantages in that it offers a greater degree of public access to information as to the workings of the prosecution process than was previously the case. For example, in the Northern Territory, the DPP may issue guidelines as to the performance of his functions, and the Attorney-General may issue directions as to the general policy to be followed in the performance of a function of the DPP. Mr Bell: That is right - general policy. Now we will have section 28(2). Come on! Mr PERRON: I will. These guidelines and directions must be published in the DPPs annual report. In fact, the DPP has published those guidelines in recent annual reports. Justice Gaudron did not mention the accountability mechanisms through the parliament. This is an important feature of the Northern Territory scheme. The DPP is required by legislation to inform the Legislative Assembly on his functions, and to provide answers to questions raised in the Assembly. If I wanted to be really cute about it all, we need not bother to amend the act. We could just leave these 2 fellows in dispute - the Ombudsman reporting every year that he thinks he has the power, and the DPP saying that he has not and refusing to let him in the front door. However, it is a disturbing situation that requires clarification. I 3588