ABA president highlights issues in the Northern Territory, Timor Leste

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Patrick O’Sullivan QC, president of the Australian Bar Association (ABA), is highlighting issues concerning the Northern Territory and how Timor Leste may be assisted by the organisation.

O’Sullivan has met with Northern Territory Attorney-General John Elferink and Shadow Minister for Corrections Natasha Fyles this week to discuss proposed legislation concerning the jurisdiction’s bail policy specifically as it applies to juveniles and the indigenous.

According to a statement from the ABA, it and the Northern Territory Bar Association recently aired concerns proposed bail legislation in the Northern Territory. It will remove the presumption in favour of bail for juveniles in relation to repeat property offenders, they said.

“If the proposed legislation becomes law, it will have the effect of making it harder for children to get bail before they receive a trial.  This proposal flies in the face of the presumption of innocence and the fundamental principle that imprisonment of a child should be the last resort,” said O’Sullivan.

“The ABA believes these laws will disproportionately target young indigenous men in the Northern Territory, where the rate of indigenous people in prison is close to 90 percent.  Indigenous incarceration is a national crisis and we need to be looking at solutions that divert indigenous people from the criminal justice system, not the other way around.”

O’Sullivan also met with new Chief Justice of the Northern Territory, The Hon Michael Grant CJ in Darwin.

“It was a pleasure to meet with and discuss various issues with him. He comes with an exemplary reputation as an advocate of the highest order and his vast experience across so many areas will serve the Court well,” the ABA president said.

O’Sullivan will also be visiting Timor Leste, Dili on July 14 to join the 2016 Northern Territory Bar Association’s annual conference.

“The conference provides an important opportunity for the Australian Bar and the legal profession as a whole to observe the Timor Leste legal system and see how the Australian Bar may be able to assist,” said O’Sullivan.

Judicial independence and accountability, maritime issues in the Timor Gap, regional opportunities for commercial arbitration, youth justice and domestic violence will be discussed during the conference.