HIGH COURT UPHOLDS PAPERLESS ARREST LAWS.
CASE : North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency Limited v Northern Territory  HCA 41 11 November 2015 M45/2015.
In 2014 police in the Northern Territory (‘NT’) were given new powers to detain people arrested for a minor offence for up to four hours, or longer if intoxicated.
The North Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency (‘NAAJA’) challenged these laws because of the disproportionate impact of the new powers on Indigenous people.
The second plaintiff, Ms Bowden, is an Aboriginal woman who was arrested and detained under the PA Act for almost 12 hours. At the hearing in September 2015, the plaintiffs argued that detention following arrest under the PA Act infringes the separation of powers doctrine that they say applies to laws of the NT Legislative Assembly. Alternatively, they said that such detention offends the Kable principle by undermining the integrity of the NT courts.
HELD : Today the High Court, by majority, dismissed an application for a declaration that Div 4AA of Pt VII of the Police Administration Act (NT) (“the Act”) is invalid.
A majority of the Court held that, upon the proper construction of Div 4AA, the powers it confers on members of the Police Force are not penal or punitive in character and do not impair, undermine or detract from the institutional integrity of the Northern Territory courts. Div 4AA, properly construed, does not authorise members of the Police Force to detain a person for longer than is reasonably practicable for them to make a determination about which one of the options under s 133AB(3) is to be exercised. The Court ordered that the matter be referred to a single Justice for further directions.
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