Leading Territory justice groups have slammed the Northern Territory government for a new law limiting the compensation payable to people abused in detention.
On Thursday the Northern Territory Parliament passed the Personal Injuries (Liabilities and Damages) Amendment Bill 2022, which imposes damages caps for legal wrongs occurring in youth and adult prisons in the Territory at $15,300.
North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency principal legal officer David Woodroffe said the new law was a continuation of past failures of the system.
“This is a further dark chapter in the Territory’s history of failing to ensure the safety and full protection of the law for Aboriginal victims of government wrongdoing and abuse,” he said.
Human Rights Law Centre legal director Nick Espie said the new laws allowed the government to dodge responsibility for human rights abuses against. young people.
“These laws discriminate against Aboriginal people and contradict the NT government’s Aboriginal Justice Agreement commitment to treat Aboriginal victims fairly, respectfully and without discrimination,” he said.
“This is another backwards step retreating from the commitment to repairing a broken Youth Justice System.”
A spokesperson for NT Attorney General Selena Uibo said the changes placed reasonable limits on damages which could be awarded to those mistreated in custody.
“The Department… consulted with key legal stakeholders in the development of the legislation, namely NAAJA, NT Legal Aid Commission, Law Society Northern Territory, and the NT Bar Association,” she said.
“(The Act) already places statutory limits on the damages awardable by the court for personal injuries and there are various other existing schemes which limit damages payable as a result of certain wrongdoing.
The spokesperson said the government was planning to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12.
Change the Record co-chairwoman Cheryl Axleby said the Bill was a “cynical move” by the NT Government to avoid consequences.
Ms Axleby said the age of criminal responsibility should be raised to at least 14.