Friday, April 15, 2005

NT Courts biased, magistrate claims

NT: In an extraordinary court-room admission by a magistrate yesterday, the entire bench of Northern Territory magistrates was found to be biased against the Darwin-based drug law-reform group the Network Against Prohibition.

Magistrate David Loadman's shock comments confirm the network's long-held belief that it is impossible for its members to receive fair trials in the Northern Territory.

Loadman's comments came in a case unrelated to the NAP campaign, when prosecutor Tim Smith told the magistrate that two of the witnesses were "of Napster fame". However, Smith also pointed out that as a non-NAP case, it was "not political".

Disqualifying himself from the matter, Loadman said, "Everyone of them (NAP members) has been found to be untruthful."

"I don't think there is a magistrate in the system who doesn't have a perception of bias about these people."

Since its formation in March 2002, members of the network, a community-based group campaigning against the NT Government's "drug house" legislation, have been subject to an ongoing campaign of harassment and intimidation which they say, has been orchestrated by the NT Police Service and the NT Labor Government.

NAP members have been charged with more than 100 criminal offences, have been falsely imprisoned and seen their demonstrations broken up violently.

A number of NAP members already face jail for their alleged invasion of the NT Legislative Assembly on the 14th of May 2002. That matter will soon be appealed to the full bench of the NT Supreme Court.

Referring to a previous NAP case in which he found Robert Inder-Smith guilty of hindering police and disorderly behavior at one of the Network's Community Smoke-Ins, Loadman said: "I was subject to specious drivel which I dismissed with venom... yes, I did dismiss it with venom."

Magistrate Loadman's finding of guilt was overturned by Supreme Court Justice David Angel on the 11th of January this year. Dismissing the conviction, Justice Angel said that it could appear that Rob did not get a fair trial.

In his decision, Justice Angel said: ''The tone of the way the magistrate addressed the Appellant speaks volumes.''

In court two at the Darwin Magistrate's Court today, Loadman dismissed Justice Angel's decision as "misguided jurisdential purity".

NAP spokesperson Fiona Clarke, who attended today's proceedings, said: "It's not so surprising that members of the NT judiciary are biased against NAP, as they rely heavily on non-violent drug offenders for their bread and butter. "What is surprising is that Mr Loadman has admitted it."

For further information call the network's Gary Meyerhoff or Fiona Clarke on (08) 8942 0570 or contact Magistrate David Loadman on (08) 8999 6599.

Network Against Prohibition - Australia PO Box 701 Parap NT 0804 Australia Phone: +61 (0) 8 8942 0570 Mobile: +61 (0) 415 16 2525 Email:

By NAPNT posted 15 April 05


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