21 September 2015

'Paperless arrests' (not only) in the Northern Territory

Police in Darwin have jailed nearly 1,000 Aboriginal people under new public order laws that allow detention without an arrest warrant. Following a black death in custody, the coroner said the laws should be repealed because they perpetuate and entrench Indigenous disadvantage. But the NT government is refusing to budge. So have 'paperless arrests' reduced crime? Wendy Carlisle investigates.

It's not hard to find Indigenous people in Darwin who've been picked up and detained under paperless arrest laws. The laws were introduced by the CLP in a sweeping change to police powers last year, to 'give police control of the streets'.

They allow police to detain people without arrest or the oversight of the courts. But those mainly caught in the net are Indigenous people, detained for minor offences no court would send them to jail for.

Of those arrested, over 80 per cent are Indigenous, which means close to 1,000 Indigenous people have been held in the Darwin police lockup for minor street offences like drinking in parks and disorderly behaviour offences.


Now the Northern Territory coroner has called for paperless arrest laws to be repealed following the death of an Indigenous man in custody, saying the laws disproportionately affect Aboriginal people and more deaths will follow.

The government is refusing to budge. Chief minister Adam Giles says paperless arrests are driving down the crime rate.

'We've freed police up ... from being stuck behind a desk and now getting out on the beat and servicing Territorians on a regular basis,' he says.

'This is one of the reasons we're seeing crime at record low levels in the Northern Territory.'

However, according to NT crime statistics, assaults in Darwin have continued to rise under the CLP's more liberal alcohol policies. In the notorious Mitchell Street entertainment precinct, assaults are higher than when they were elected in 2012.

That hasn't deterred the former policeman turned Northern Territory attorney-general, John Elferink.

'If you look at the newspapers today in the Northern Territory, where 12 months ago we would regularly see an article about a serious assault in Mitchell Street, that is now almost disappeared,' he says.

'I am still waiting for the police to provide me with statistics in this space and I mean you have to have a certain proving time before you can look at the statistics, but certainly anecdotally the evidence is there.'

Pressed on whether evidence supports a connection between assault rates and paperless arrests, Elferink says he certainly believes it does.

'There are serious assaults that happen historically; they appear not to be happening now. We are allowed to make that assertion on the basis of that.'

Elferink says there's a sound rationale for placing minor offenders behind bars while they sober up—arguing it's the drunks who are violent later on.

'You've got to remember that this notional idea that it's just a man or a woman sitting in a park and having a drink and they should be unmolested is incorrect,' he says.

'What happens in the real world is that if someone is publicly drunk they are invariably the people we end up arresting from much more serious and indictable offences much later on.'

abc.net.au  20 Sep 2015

'Paperless arrests' are not only implemented in NT but also throughout Australia.

In the state of Victoria for example there has not yet been produced one lawful 'warrant' from the 'sheriff's' office that give powers to arrest, etc.

This is another act of 'genocide' on the Indigenous population of this continent, just an amendment to previous policies enforced.

A typical 'warden' mentality of the 'government' of a colony.