Chief Justice lashes out at failures in alcohol policy




The Northern Territory Chief Justice Trevor Riley appeared to be expressing his support for a Banned Drinkers Register or something similar when yesterday in Alice Springs he sentenced a man  to four years and nine months for a cruel assault on his wife.


The assault had happened after both had been drinking heavily and got into an argument over where they were going to get more alcohol. The drinking was being done in the supposedly ‘dry’ community of Nyirripi and the man was the subject of a Domestic Violence Order requiring him to stay away from his wife of 14 years and mother of their three children when he was drinking.  He had previously assaulted her on at least six occasions and had done time for the offences, the longest sentence, for causing serious harm, being for two years.


At right: A drunken fight brewing in the Alice Springs CBD. Photo from our archive.


On this occasion he knocked his wife to the ground.  She hit her head hard and was rendered unconscious. He then kicked and punched her repeatedly on the head, face and body. She suffering lacerations, fractures, a puncture wound to her leg, and the permanent loss of sight in her right eye.


The man surrendered himself to police after a week and made full admissions: “Honestly I blame myself, it was wrong,” he told them.


The Chief Justice (at left) said an obvious step to address the “terrible problems” of alcohol in Central Australia would be “to limit the flow of alcohol to people such as” the offender. The courts can only address the problems “after the damage has been done”, he said.


His experience in the courts is that the situation is “getting worse”, “the level of alcohol consumption in many cases is simply astounding” and the “terrible problems we now see are destined to be repeated in the next generation”.


In what would seem a clear criticism of the current government’s alcohol strategies, he said: ” It is unfortunate and terribly sad, that genuine efforts to curb the flow of alcohol that could address the problems of those who suffer from abuse of alcohol are not pursued.”


The Chief Justice did not make comment about employment or the lack thereof and the way that might contribute to the situation, but the court heard that while the offender was educated to Year 10 and had quite a good level of literacy and numeracy, he had had only sporadic employment with CDEP in his community over the last four years.


RELATED STORY: Booze controls needed for footy carnival (letter to editor)

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5 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Ian Sharp
    Posted March 25, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Re BDR … interesting story in Sunday Territorian. Typical “Terror” front page “Our city is a war zone” claims female bar / restaurant owner in Darwin CBD … says she and other businesses have noticed a sharp increase in drunk itinerants / homeless people since the BDR was scrapped … pressure building on the CLP Government to reverse this measure?

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  2. Russell Guy
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    @ Ian Rennie. Your comment would be accurate if you took “the police” out of your equation. Generally speaking, the police have been pro-Banned Drinker’s Register (BDR), but they are bound by the philosophy of the Chief Minister towards alcohol management, which is an emphatic “no” to the BDR’s return.

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  3. Bob Durnan
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Ian Rennie (Posted March 24, 2013 at 9:47 am): thankfully you are mistaken about the police. Many, maybe most, experienced police are not happy about the roles being forced upon them by the government, nor are they pleased by the behaviour of some licensees. In fact, many police, as individuals, are probably strong supporters of effective alcohol reform.

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  4. Ian Rennie
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 9:47 am

    The government in cahoots with the police and hotel owners / management will prevent effective campaigns and legislation regarding alcohol abuse all because of what they stand to lose … think about it.
    In the meantime there will be continued violence, death and so many lives destroyed whilst the respectable drunkard wife and child beaters go about their holier than thou lives behind closed doors.

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  5. Robert Dobalino
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Positively Alice … where’s sensible Steve?

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