Martin’s resignation an opportunity to get Commission right: lawyers

1st Aug 2016

The Australian Lawyers Alliance welcomes the decision of Brian Martin to stand down as Royal Commissioner into juvenile justice in the Northern Territory.

As noted by ALA spokesperson Greg Barns last week, “it would have been preferable to draw upon the expertise and wisdom of a retired judicial officer without this connection to the NT... While we have no doubt as to Mr Martin’s utmost integrity, having a former Chief Justice of the NT Supreme Court as the Commissioner opens the inquiry up to perceptions of a conflict of interest.”

Speaking today, Mr Barns welcomed Mr Martin’s resignation, and said this was an opportunity to get it right: “It is essential that the new commissioner has no background in the NT justice system. This system has clearly failed to ensure that youth detention is fair and humane”, said Mr Barns.

“The ALA supports statements by Senator Pat Dodson that there is a need for a commissioner who understands the culture and family backgrounds of the children in detention in the NT.

“We also support what Bill Shorten has said, that the credibility of the Royal Commission depends on having an indigenous man and indigenous woman as co-commissioners. Expertise in juvenile justice will also be essential in the ability of the Royal Commission to have a comprehensive understanding of the challenges being faced in the NT, and how they might be resolved.

“Ultimately, for this investigation to have the greatest legitimacy, it should cover all places where children are detained at the hands of Australian governments. This can be achieved and still ensure swift outcomes in the Territory. There is nothing stopping the NT government from implementing essential safeguards now.

“As we have seen from today’s resignation, however, prioritising speed over all else in an investigation as important as this can in fact slow progress down”, said Mr Barns.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to genuinely improve both the justice system and the life outcomes of children who find themselves detained. Brian Martin in his gracious resignation today has presented the government with an opportunity to ensure this Royal Commission is rigorous and effective. The world is watching how we respond to the outrages revealed by 4 Corners last week.



Tags: Human rights Northern Territory Criminal justice