Parliamentary record : Part I debates (27 February 1990)
Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Northern Territory Legislative Assembly
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Tuesday 27 February 1990 safer in the Territory than in some of the major population centres down south. Nevertheless, that does not diminish the terrible problem of violent crime in the Territory. It is we 11 known that I have very grave concern s about the 1 eve 1 of violence in our society. That is probably partially a result of the frequency with which I encountered violent crime and witnessed the misery it caused during my time as a police officer. Fortunately, I no longer have to visit the scenes of violent crime in the course of my work. However, in my capacity as Attorney-General, enough matters pass across my desk to regularly remind me of the many distressing episodes which I have experienced. I am certainly reminded regularly of the level of violence which continues in our community. The member for MacDonnell referred to alternative dispute-settling mechanisms. I certainly am aware of some of the work which has been done in Victoria and New South Wales. This government intends to pursue the matter. Obviously, any method which can reduce the cost of settling disputes and make the process more available to the general community in an economic sense is something which should be supported by both sides of the House. I am also very much aware of the genuine concern in the community about violence, particularly violence directed against women. Clearly, it is this parliament's responsibility to address that concern. During the next sittings of this Assembly, I expect to be in a position to introduce a new sentencing act. I indicate to honourable members now that that legislation will focus particularly on crime. Another issue of concern to me is child abuse. I note that the committee has recommended that urgent attention be given to improving procedures for investigating allegations of sexual abuse of children. I certainly noted the comments recommending consideration of the use of video recording techniques to assist in the delivery of evidence in such matters. As the Chief Minister stated, such an approach certainly has received some attention in the Northern Territory. In particular, I have discussed with the Police Commissioner the possibility of recording on video the original interviews with victims of sexual attacks, whether those victims be children or adults. It seems to me that this may have advantages in preserving the integrity of the original evidence given by the victim, particularly in child abuse cases where the question of contaminated evidence is frequently a consideration when the matter eventually goes to trial some time after the report of an offence. I must stress that the degree to which videotaped evidence could be or should be admissible in court is certainly one of great complexity. Obviously, the competing interests must be balanced - for example, the right of the accused to have a fair trial against the concern that victims of child sexual abuse should not be subjected to unnecessary trauma and demoralisation are matters which have to be balanced. It is not only the victim of child abuse whose interests must be considered in this regard, but also those of any victim of sexual assault. However, that is another issue which I hope to bring before the Assembly in greater detail this year. I am pleased that a number of the committee's recommendations are in line with practices already followed in the Northern Territory. Examples include the introduction of the Police Aide Scheme, along the lines of the scheme operating in the Northern Territory, and the education of police in relation to Aboriginal culture. Again I note the recommendations regarding 8745
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