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Latest News
2015 Indigenous Legal Professional and Indigenous Law Student of the Year
05 July 2015

The Commonwealth Attorney‑General and Minister for the Arts, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, is pleased to announce the Indigenous Legal Professional of the Year Award and the Indigenous Law Student of the Year Prize.

Nominations for the Indigenous Legal Professional of the Year are open to any Indigenous person who is currently admitted as a solicitor or barrister in Australia. The Award recipient will receive $5,000 for further professional development.

Nominations for the Indigenous Law Student of the Year are open to any Indigenous person enrolled in an undergraduate Law Degree in Australia. The Prize recipient will receive $2,500 to further their studies.

Nominees must address the selection criteria that can be accessed by:

Visiting:  2015 Indigenous Legal Professional and Law Student of the Year

Emailing: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

For further information please visit: 2015 Indigenous Legal Professional and Law Student of the Year

 
Law Society Northern Territory supports Change the Record Campaign
05 June 2015

The Law Society Northern Territory (the Society) is proud to support the “Change the Record” campaign (Campaign), an initiative of the National Justice Coalition aimed to end the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system.

Society President Tass Liveris said, “the Northern Territory has the highest rate of indigenous imprisonment in the country and indigenous people are significantly over-represented in the wider justice system. The statistics are alarming and identify a clear need for urgent action.”.

The Campaign is calling for governments at all levels to address the root causes of violence and imprisonment within the indigenous community by working in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities, services and their representatives. The Campaign lists 12 evidence-based and cost-effective solutions that invest in early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies.

“The Campaign outlines a new, strategic approach to stem the constantly rising imprisonment rates and incidences of violence and domestic violence, curtail re-offending rates and build stronger communities. By working together to invest in holistic strategies, we can help change this cycle of disadvantage” Mr Liveris said.

Visit https://changetherecord.org.au/ for more information.

 
Law Society Northern Territory launches Indigenous Protocols for Lawyers – second edition
05 June 2015

The Law Society Northern Territory will launch its second edition of Indigenous Protocols for Lawyers (Protocols) at noon tomorrow at Chifley Alice Springs Resort.
The first edition of the Protocols was launched over 10 years ago and the Territory was the first jurisdiction to provide a guide to lawyers dealing with Indigenous people. Since their introduction the Protocols have been widely embraced and adapted throughout Australia.
Law Society CEO, Megan Lawton, said “the Protocols are intended to be an introduction to practice in the Northern Territory, providing essential guidance to lawyers to help them best advocate for Indigenous clients.
When first released the protocols marked the shift from expecting Indigenous peoples to learn rules or to change their behavior or learn the English language to expecting Legal Practitioners to have increased skill. Effective cross-cultural communication in a legal setting continues to be an important skill for lawyers.” Mrs. Lawton said.
The second edition of the Protocols continues to provide practical guidance and essential skills and tips. Importantly they outline what is expected of lawyers who represent Indigenous clients or witnesses” Ms Lawton said.
The Society acknowledges the work of the original author Ms Kristina Karlsson and in launching the second edition gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS) and the input from the legal community.
CEO Megan Lawton said “we are proud to reflect that the Protocols have been in constant use since their original publication and the Society looks forward to the 2nd edition continuing to be a highly regarded resource for the legal profession in the Northern Territory and the wider community.”
The Protocols will be formally launched tomorrow during Law Week celebrations in Alice Springs with a Welcome to Country provided by Aboriginal elder Mrs. Betty Peace

 
Identification of Youth Offenders
05 June 2015

Letter dated 4 June 2015 to the Attorney-General, the Hon John Elferick MLA

The Law Society Northern Territory (the Society) refers to our letter to you dated 18 September 2014 calling on you to introduce urgent amendments to the Youth Justice Act (Act) to prevent the publication of information identifying youth who come in contact with the justice system.

Recently several news outlets ran, over several days, photographs and named two youths who had escaped and then returned to the corrections facility. The clear public interest in rehabilitating and reintegrating juveniles back into the community must be balanced against the public interest in open justice and public safety and as such reasonable exceptions ought to remain.

The Society reiterates its concern that as the Minister for Children and Families, permitting the publication of youth identities’ does not fit within the well-established principle that the best interest of the child is to be at the forefront of decision making.

It is clear that publicly identifying youth offenders is not in the interests of Territorians. The high costs of incarceration and rehabilitation is well documented. Anything that can be done to bring an end to incarceration, ensure young offenders become functioning, contributing members of society must be embraced.

The evidence is clear that it stigmatises youths and has a negative impact on their rehabilitation prospects and potentially leading to increased offending[1]. As the behaviour of the youths demonstrate they already strongly self-identify with criminal or deviant behaviours, reinforced by the media coverage. Accounting for the long term nature of digital media and in a small jurisdiction such as the Northern Territory these effects are compounded. It is clear that their actions in escaping were impulsive, and in returning they sought attention for their actions, which they achieved. There is no deterrent effect.

The Society is concerned that whilst the media hyperbole creates a level of notoriety for the youth, and shame for their custodians, little consideration is given to the impact of this coverage on the victims of their crimes.

The Society thus calls upon you to enact an urgent amendment to the Act so that apart from exceptional circumstances; it prevents the identification of youth offenders in the Northern Territory.

The Society would be happy to be consulted on any draft amendments.

[1] Johnston A., ‘The Privacy Commissioner’s Report on Child Offenders and Privacy’, Position Paper, 23 July 2002, p 2, quoted in Submission 16, Shopfront Youth Legal Centre, p 7

 
Darwin Family Law Registry - Relocation
20 May 2015

From Wednesday 27 May 2015 the Darwin Family Law Registry will no longer be located at TCG Centre 80 Mitchell St Darwin.

The Registry will now be located at Ground Floor, Supreme Court Building, State Square, Darwin.

The conference room is on level 3.

Our dedicated Court is Court 8 level 4.

Phone, fax, email and post remain unchanged.

 
Supreme Court Listings - 2016
23 April 2015

Read more...
 
Behaviour of Correction Officers
23 April 2015

Letter to The Hon John Elferink MLA dated 21 April 2015

Law Society Northern Territory (the Society) has received a number of inquiries from members of the public seeking to complain about behaviour of corrections officers at the Darwin Correctional Precinct. 

The Society is keen to assist the public in appropriately directing their complaints, and to ensuring that the Department is best place to improve the quality of service provided. 

The ‘Complaints and Compliments’ processes observed by the Department of Health may be a useful model.  Further, the Department of Health also offers complaints via the Health & Community Services Complaints Commission and the Ombudsman. 

The Society would be grateful if you could clarify the available complaints processes.

 
Issues Paper – Development of a Central Bond Holding Scheme
20 April 2015

Letter to Director Legal Policy, Department of Attorney-General and Justice

The Law Society Northern Territory (the Society) thanks you for the opportunity to provide input on the Issues Paper – Development of a Central Bond Holding Scheme in the Northern Territory (the Scheme). The Society applauds measures that will address areas of unmet legal need.

The Society supports the concept of the development of an independent body to hold residential tenancy bonds. The Society is keen to see that the Department of Housings’ Accountable Officer’s Trust Account, which holds funds on behalf of public housing tenants, is also subject to the Scheme.

The Society is particularly interested in exploring options for the investment and distribution of interest earned from the funds paid into the Scheme. As noted in the Issues Paper, revenue raised on the interest would be used to educate the public about the Residential Tenancies Act and the Scheme and to cover costs associated with an increase in claims. The Society notes that earnings from investments of bonds in Queensland have been provided to the Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Service to provide information, advice and advocacy to tenants, something which is very much needed in relation for tenants in remote areas of the Northern Territory. Given the significant role of Government tenancy agreements the Society is keen to see education and information needs met by independent advisers.

 
International Treaty Against Use of Nuclear Weapons
16 April 2015

Letter to Chief Executive Officer Australian Red Cross dated 8 April 2015

INTERATIONAL TREATY AGAINST USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Law Society Northern Territory (Society) is writing to acknowledge and express its support for your work building support for an international treaty that would make the use of nuclear weapons illegal under international law.

The Society is pleased to contribute to the growing international momentum acknowledging that the use of nuclear weapons remains an immediate threat to global health.

Chemical, biological weapons, and landmines are illegal by convention because of their impact on civilian populations, yet the impact of nuclear weapons on the civilian population and its environment would be immeasurable. Nuclear weapons do not distinguish between race, religion or nationality and are the most barbaric weapon ever invented not outlawed by a specific international convention.

The Society supports the Australian Red Cross, in its continued call on the Australian government to pursue diplomatic negotiations leading to a binding legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank your organisation for its continuing advocacy in international humanitarian law, and in particular for keeping this critical issue on the global agenda.

 
Supreme Court of the Northern Territory Practice Direction 1 of 2015
16 April 2015

Letter sent to Master Luppino Supreme Court of the Northern Territory

Supreme Court of the Northern Territory Practice Direction 1 of 2015

I refer to the correspondence between the Master’s Chambers, Dylan Walters and I on 6 and 7 January 2015 concerning Supreme Court Practice Direction 1 of 2015 dated 2 January 2015 (“PD1/15”).

Law Society Northern Territory (“Society”) has been contacted by some of its members who are concerned by the reduction in the rate per unit of a solicitor from $26.00 to $25.00 by PD1/15. The issue was considered by the Society’s Legal Practice Committee on 10 February 2015. On the basis of these submissions the Society requests the Master to reconsider the recommendation he made to the Chief Justice[1] and that consideration be given to reissuing PD1/15:

1.  Paragraph 4 of Part 1 of the Appendix to Order 63 of the Supreme Court Rules (“Paragraph 4”) requires the Chief Justice to declare the rate per unit of a solicitor and a clerk by practice direction from time to time after considering the recommendation of the Master.

Paragraph 4 also requires the Master to calculate and recommend any adjustment to the solicitor and clerk rate for each year on the basis of 37% the rate of the Consumer Price Index and 50% the rate of Average Weekly Earnings (“AWE”).  

 2.  As such, both the language of Paragraph 4 and the deliberate gap of 13% left in the formula to be applied provide discretion to the Master and the Chief Justice in respectively recommending and declaring the value of a rate per unit.

 3.  In the case of PD1/15, the letter from the Department of Treasury and Finance to the Master dated 24 November 2014 (which the Master’s Chambers has kindly supplied us with) notes that in 2014 the value of a solicitor’s rate was calculated to be $25.50. In 2015 the value was calculated to be $25.47 i.e. a decrease of $0.03.

 4.  The discretionary consideration and declaration of the rate per unit ought take into account the principle of de minimis non curat lex, where in this case a minor statistical variation of $0.03 should not be allowed to give rise to a reduction of $10.00 per hour that a solicitor can charge by reference to Paragraph 4. To do so would produce an anomalous outcome.

 5  .Many Territory practitioners, particularly sole practitioners and small and medium sized practices provide key access to legal services to members of the community by reference to the rate per unit declared under Paragraph 4. As such, a reduction of the rate has a significant impact on the ability of those practices to continue to deliver legal services to clients, many of whom are amongst some of the most needy and disadvantaged in the community.

 6.  In addition to this, sole practitioners and small to medium sized practices are under existing financial pressures which make them unable to absorb a further reduction in their earning capacity. The causes of these pressures include that Legal Aid rates have not increased for several years, that funding to legal aid bodies is being eroded and there are additional regulatory expenses such as in continuing professional development. These are the sorts of factors that the discretion built in to Paragraph 4 should take into account.

 7.  In circumstances where the reduction of the rate per unit has been brought about by a 2.2% decrease in the value of AWE it is also noted that awards and enterprise bargaining agreements are not designed to allow wages to decrease as a general rule. Although it is not expressly stated in Paragraph 4, the same general rule should apply to the calculation of the rates per unit.

 8.  If the value of AWE has decreased it would also be anomalous that a corresponding reduction in the solicitor’s rate per unit would have the effect of allowing clients to recover less of their fees incurred in the event of successful litigation than they would otherwise be permitted to.

 9.  The Society notes that the decrease in the value of AWE has not interfered with the value of the rate per unit for a clerk in PD1/15, which remains $14.00 as it was in 2014. A consistent application of the decrease in AWE favours leaving the value of a solicitor’s rate at $26.00 rather than reducing it.

 10.  Whilst the Society accepts that following the guide in Paragraph 4 there will be years where the rate will properly remain the same, 2015 is the first instance of deflation that the Society is aware of.

As the decrease in the rate is not mandated by Paragraph 4 but rather is a matter for the discretionary consideration of the Master and then the Chief Justice, we ask the Court to review PD1/15 with a view to issuing a new Practice Direction declaring the rate per unit for a solicitor at $26.00, with the clerk’s rate to remain unchanged at $14.00.

Thank you for the opportunity to make this submission. We look forward to hearing from you.

[1] The recommendation made under paragraph 4 of Part 1 of the Appendix to Order 63 of the Supreme Court Rules.

 
Review of Academic Requirements for Admission - Legal Profession
16 April 2015

Letter sent to Legal Practitioners' Admissions Board dated 30 March 2015

REVIEW OF ACADEMIC REQUIREMENTS FOR ADMISSION – LEGAL PROFESSION

Law Society Northern Territory (“Society”) is pleased to provide input into the review of the academic requirements for admission to the legal profession in Australia (“Review”).

Comments on Section 6 of the Review

The Society maintains its position that the Priestley 11 should be the minimum academic study requirements for admission to the legal profession. The Priestley 11 continues to serve a relevant and appropriate purpose in setting a basic, required level of knowledge for all legal practitioners.

Removal of any elements of the Priestley 11 (such as civil procedure, evidence and ethics) is counterintuitive to the purpose and objects of admission to the legal profession. There is also a great risk that removing core elements will result in there being a failure to meet the community and consumer expectations that legal practitioners have acquired training in the fundamental principles of legal practice.

As such the Society also considers that statutory interpretation should be included as an additional prescribed academic requirement. Statutory interpretation is an integral component of legal practice and the skills gained in the training are broadly (if not specifically) applied across practice. Further, parliaments at all tiers of government are producing increasing volumes of new legislation and heavily modifying existing legislation. An ability to understand (as well as argue) statutory interpretation is therefore a key requirement of legal practice.

The Society has no other submission to make in terms of any additional areas of knowledge that ought to be added to the Priestley 11. However, in terms of the developing contextual changes that are referred to in the Review it is critical that a clear distinction is made between the requirements imposed by tertiary institutions for obtaining a Bachelor of Laws and the requirements for admission to the legal profession. The two concepts must be considered separately. It is also noted that demands for diversity and speciality in legal studies outside of the Priestley 11 are routinely met through means such as combined Bachelor of Laws/Jurisprudence courses, as well as Masters.

A “profession” is in part identified by special skill and learning. Entry to the legal profession also has a good fame and character requirement and members owe high and overriding duties of honesty to the courts, clients and other legal practitioners, lest public confidence in the administration of justice is eroded. This reflects the heavy responsibility legal practitioners have to themselves, each other and the public at large and demonstrates the need for the legal profession to ensure that those standards are not reduced.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input into this important discussion.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require further information.

A copy of this letter has been sent to the Law Council of Australia.

 
Amendments to Workers Compensation Legislation - Part 2
16 April 2015

Letter sent to Minister Styles on 30 March 2015

AMENDMENTS TO WORKERS COMPENSATION LEGISLATION – PART 2

The Law Society Northern Territory (the Society) notes the passing of the first round of Amendments to the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, introduced into Parliament in February 2015.

The Society was requested to, and did, provide feedback on the Preliminary Report.

We note the second round of amendments is due to be introduced in May. The Society looks forward to providing comments on the draft Bill, particularly considering any unintended consequences.

We look forward to receiving a copy of the draft Bill at your earliest convenience.

 
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