Alice Springs news
Alice Springs news; NewspaperNT
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This publication contains many links to external sites. These external sites may no longer be active.
Community newspspers; Australia, Central; Alice Springs (N.T.); Newspapers
v. 17 issue 34
Copyright. Made available by the publisher under licence.
In the Sheriffs experience it is not unusual for only half of people summonsed to present themselves to the court. Aboriginal people make up some 21% of Alices population of 27,481, but 45% of the 48,000 people who live in the area for which jury trials are conducted in Alice Springs (76% if the township is excluded). In 2008 83% of the NT prison population was Aboriginal. The electoral roll does not record specific house numbers for addresses in town camps. Mail is not delivered directly to town camps but is held at Tangentyere Council for up to six weeks for collection. Only a small proportion of it is collected. Justice Blokland: Trial judge can overcome difficulties Justice Blokland, in giving her reasons for refusing to change the venue of the trial, summarised the arguments put on behalf of the accused. Among these were that: Mr Hargrave was a prominent person, possibly regarded as "a local hero or loved son of Alice Springs"; public grief had been evidenced by, for instance, a statement from the mayor, a well-supported public appeal to raise money for Mr Hargrave's family, a memorial procession through the town, and a significant volume of expressions of regret and notices in the local press; racial issues had been highlighted in media reporting of the case, "including a juxtaposition of this case with a previous unrelated case where racial elements were acknowledged", as well as instances of inaccurate or misleading reporting; specific prejudice to both accused and to Mr Woods' family had lead to both men being moved for a period to custody in Darwin; the composition of juries in Alice Springs historically has been racially skewed. Justice Blokland said that it is in the interests of the community that ordinarily an offence be tried in the locality in which it is alleged to have been committed and that the jury be selected from the same district. Changing the venue would also result in increased costs and inconvenience to the Crown, witnesses and others from the local community interested in the trial as well as the accused. The applicants argued that the trial needs to not only be fair but be perceived to be fair, but Justice Blokland said perceptions need to be appropriately and reasonably informed. She recognised some issues of concern but saw "nothing that could not be overcome by direction and instruction of the trial judge once brought to their attention". She cited the High Court on the proper direction of jurors: What ... is vital to the criminal justice system is the capacity of jurors, when properly directed by trial judges, to decide cases in accordance with the law, that is, by reference only to admissible evidence led in court and relevant submissions, uninfluenced by extraneous considerations. "That capacity is critical to ensuring that criminal proceedings are fair to an accused. The applicants had presented her with a number of extracts from local print media and web pages, some of which "impliedly" referred to Aboriginal people in a negative or accusatory way. The applicants also felt that a headline for a report about the committal, which read DNA found on knife, gave a wrong impression, when it was in fact the deceased's DNA on the knife. However, Justice Blokland felt that the media coverage was not comparable to the mischievous or inflammatory coverage of a 1981 case (The Queen v Peperill) when Justice Muirhead moved the trial of five men from Alice Springs. The applicant Graham Woods reported in an affidavit threats and abuse by prison officers towards himself and the coaccused. After two weeks in custody both men were moved to the Darwin Correctional Centre. Mr Woods stated he was told by prison officers that he and Williams were transferred for their own safety because there was so much feeling against them in Alice Springs after the death of Mr Hargrave. He reported other abuse and taunting on the way to Darwin, but said he had not been treated badly since his return to Alice Springs Correctional Centre shortly before the committal hearing in October last year. Justice Blokland said the previous treatment of the applicants, if true, was serious but as it had changed, she concluded that there was no longer the same "intensity of feeling". The father of Mr Woods also reported in an affidavit that for the first time ever he had had difficulty obtaining work in Alice Springs.