Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 February 1999



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 February 1999

Other title

Parliamentary Record 14


Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





Publisher name

Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

Place of publication


File type



Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

DEBATES - Wednesday 17 February 1999 to try and rectify that situation. One option, I can say to you in this House, that appeals to me at this stage, is that there may be the opportunity to put an exceptional circumstance clause in the legislation whereby, in particular circumstances, a magistrate or judge, by writing the exceptional circumstances in his judgment, could be given the discretion to deal with those that fall in under the exceptional circumstances provision. That is something that I am exploring and, to my mind, it appears to have some merit. The... M r Bailey: Call it judicial discretion, it was there before. M r BURKE: Well, you can use your own terminology. I am trying to give an explanation as to the way I am thinking at the moment. That is the member for Wanguris interjection. The second aspect is the issue of an episode of crime. An episode of crime needs clarification, to my mind, in the legislation. It is being interpreted one way by magistrates. It can be subject to appeal, and that appeal could go against a magistrates interpretation; therefore, we need to clear up that situation so an episode of crime is clearly enunciated so that the intent of mandatory imprisonment is achieved. The intent is simply that it works best for the first offence of conviction for an adult, and it works best for the second finding of guilt in a court for a juvenile. Mr Stirling: Show us the figures. M r BURKE: It should not capture a cumulative effect for crimes that are committed before justice can be delivered for one crime or one episode, otherwise it loses its purpose. Those are the sort of things that I believe need to be included in this review, and certainly I am open to any other calls from the judiciary and the legal profession as to where there could be some improvement - as long as we dont lose our focus, because the focus is on victim. It is not on perpetrators. The opposition calls for statistics. We can roll statistics around, I suppose, until forever - and either side will probably dispute them. I recall that, when the previous Chief Minister brought out the statistics of the drop in crime, it was the opposition who howled loudly that youd have to see this in an overall trend line over many years. Equally, therefore, when I bring out the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures which talk about unlawful entry with intent Australia-wide, and Ill quote: The number o f victims o f unlawful entry with intent offences increased in 1997 by 3.9% from 402 079 offences recorded in 1996. Increases were recorded in Tasmania -11%, New South Wales - 8.8%, Victoria - 4.7% and Western Australia - 0.8%. All other states and territories recorded falls, the largest being in the Northern Territory, a decrease o f 9.1%. M r Toyne interjecting. Mr BURKE: I dont stand by it entirely. I am simply saying, if you call for examples as to where and how effective is the legislation, theres one set of figures - the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a pretty recognised authority, and that records a fall of 9.1%. When we talk about juveniles, it is very important to remember - and, at the risk of repeating myself many times, juveniles do already get a number of chances to avoid mandatory detention or imprisonment. The provisions in the act only apply to their second and subsequent convictions for property offences and, in most cases, juveniles have a number of admonishments or formal police cautions prior to the first charge being laid - something that should not be forgotten. So, in actual fact, by the time they get to the mandatory sentencing regime, it may be their 3rd , 4th or 5th property offence. The period of mandatory detention or imprisonment and I think people misunderstand this too, is never more than 28 days for a juvenile for each conviction. It does not escalate in the same way that it does for adults where it escalates from 14 days for the 1st offence, 90 days for the 2nd offence and finally 12 months for the 3rd and subsequent convictions. I might add for members information that when we talk about the 3rd offence as I said 12 months for the 3rd offence and subsequent convictions, that is an example of where the act needs clarifying. I dont believe it was ever the intent that the 4th offence would gain the person another 12 months and the 5 th offence would gain another 12 months on top of that. Under mandatory sentencing regimes it was intended that the mandatory regime that was the minimum sentencing regime would cease at some point and total discretion given back to the court and I believe that ceases at that 3rd conviction. But that again could be read different ways in the court and therefore again is an example of where the legislation needs clarifying. The motion talks about access to community service orders. Of course, that access is always there. The first chance concept of a juvenile mandatory sentencing regime was included to ensure 2807