Zero Tolerance could increase deaths of homeless in custody FWD

Tom Boland (
Sat, 30 May 1998 12:35:04 -0700 (PDT)
FWD  ABC Australia - Thursday 28 May, 1998


The North Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service says applying zero
tolerance policing to itinerants will risk more Aboriginal deaths in

Northern Territory Chief Minister Shane Stone has recently returned from
New York, enthusiastic about applying aspects of that city's policy in the

Police commissioner Brian Bates says one way to apply it might be to charge
itinerants instead of moving them on.

Legal Aid lawyer Christopher House says that would be dangerous for his

"The problem with that is that if the jails and police cells across the
Territory are to be filled with Aboriginal people charged with minor
offences, then by a simple application of the laws of probability, larger
numbers of people are going to be at risk of dying," he said.

Mr House says the Australian legal community may see such a policy as

"He's talking about everybody who is itinerant being picked up and charged
and I just hope that the legal profession in general's response would be
that such a policy would be completely intolerant and completely racist,"
he said.

Youth concerns

Youth advocates in central Australia are also concerned about talk of
introducing a system of injunctions against potential offenders.

Mr Stone says he is impressed with a Los Angeles system of injunctions
which would focus on people considered to be potential offenders - and
remove their civil rights.

But Central Australian Youth Justice has accused the Chief Minister of
creating hysteria about law and order, rather than tackling social problems.

The group's Ariel Couchman says young homeless people who congregate in
public places will be targets.

"They're the ones who're going to be targeted and they're the ones who are
going to be picked up time and time again and identified as potential
criminals," she said.

Ms Couchman says Alice Springs has an alarming rate of youth suicide and
such policies will only make it worse.

"Many of the youths who killed themselves were people who were just being
picked up now and again and in trouble with the police but nothing very
serious," she said.

"It just seems to be that they felt they had nowhere to go, there was no
future for them."


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