High Court upholds NT paperless arrest law

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The High Court has ruled a NT law allowing paperless arrests valid, allowing police to detain people without charge.

The law, implemented to save police paperwork, means that a person suspected of a crime can be arrested for an offence that would normally just carry a fine.

According to the Guardian, the scheme has been linked to at least one death in custody and has been criticised by many human rights groups as well as by Gillian Triggs, the human rights commissioner.

The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency challenged the law on behalf of a woman who was held in custody for 12 hours, the agency said the law was disproportionate and a breach of the constitutional separation of powers.

A majority of the high court bench upheld the laws yesterday, rejecting assertions they gave the NT executive powers that were “penal or punitive in character”. It said the laws therefore “do not impair, undermine or detract from the institutional integrity of the Northern Territory courts”.

But chief justice Robert French and justices Susan Kiefel and Virginia Bell did note that keeping a person detained for longer than is legislated could be deemed punitive and potentially unconstitutional. 

NT attorney general John Elferink consistently defended the laws.