Courting Injustice: Mass Processing of Defendants in the Outback
65 Griffith Review 90, 2019
7 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2020
Date Written: 2019
One hundred years ago, colonial criminal law applied to Indigenous people in the bush was rough justice, if it was any sort of justice at all. Historical surveys describe police officers and judges visiting remote communities in a whirlwind of terrifyingly swift and often arbitrary criminal punishment. Over half a century later, in the 1970s, ‘bush courts’, as they came to be known, were more formally incorporated into the criminal justice system. Even then, the courts still focused on efficiency rather than justice. Accounts from that time include descriptions of court hearings in the Alice Springs region where Aboriginal defendants where herded together like cattle for group sentencing exercises unlike anything permitted in the southern capitals. Now, another fifty years later, we have come some way, but not so far as we might like to believe. People living in remote Indigenous communities continue to be afforded a second-class justice system, the reality of which is largely unknown beyond those communities and the lawyers that service them.
Keywords: Crime, Northern Territory, Indigenous Justice, Bush Court, Circuit Court
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