NT law reforms target knife crime and alcohol

NT law reforms target knife crime and alcohol

The NT Government has introduced new legislation to revoke bail for people involved in crimes involving a restricted weapon.

It also announced a voluntary buy-back scheme for liquor licenses to reduce alcohol-related harm – a move supported by local mayors.

“There are strong laws in the Northern Territory to keep the community safe as well as the investment to stop reoffending because that’s what we need to focus on,” Chief Minister Natasha Fyles told reporters on Thursday.

The NT opposition criticized the new bill – which only covers crimes involving banned weapons such as knives, axes and crossbows – as failing to meet community expectations.

A proposed amendment to expand the bill to include “weapons of opportunity” was rejected on Wednesday.

“Territorials experience crimes where perpetrators use weapons of opportunity – common items that criminals can easily get their hands on,” said opposition leader Lia Finocchiaro.

“Alice Springs truck driver Matt Page wasn’t blinded in one eye from nunchucks – it was a rock thrown through his window.”

Australian Lawyers Alliance national criminal justice spokesman Greg Barns SC is concerned the changes will adversely affect vulnerable people.

“There are many cases of strict bail laws that lead to those detained self-harming or committing suicide in prison,” he said.

Olga Havnen, co-chair of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Justice Agreement committee, said making it harder to get bail would contribute to a system of “frequent flyers” or repeat offenders.

“We know if you send someone to prison and they’re in prison more, they’re much more likely to come back,” she said.

“It is extremely disappointing that this country continues to take this approach with violent crimes when we know there are other countries that have moved to close prisons.

“What other areas of policy and provision are there where we continue to do the things that don’t work?”

The push to review crime legislation comes after the recent fatal stabbing of 20-year-old Darwin bottle shop worker Declan Laverty.

More than 2000 people attended a rally at the weekend to express their dissatisfaction with what they saw as the NT Government’s lack of action on crime.

According to publicly available police data, alcohol-related assaults in the NT have increased by almost 20 per cent in the past year.

The prospect of reduced alcohol sales has been welcomed by community organisations, including the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).

“We support this measure to improve community safety and well-being,” said Caterina Giorgi, CEO of FARE.

Ms Havnen, the CEO of Danila Dilba Health Service, was also supportive.

“Aboriginal health services are calling for greater measures to address alcohol-related harm,” she said.

“Why does it have to be so difficult when it’s so bloody obvious?

“If you don’t want the carnage, then deal with the underlying causes.”

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