Ensuring Justice for First Nations Australians in Criminal Justice Process

Presented by ANU College of Law

This session will focus on a number of topics relating to the involvement of First Nations Australians in the criminal justice process in the Northern Territory and the extent to which that process provides “equal justice”. Though the focus will be on the experience in the Northern Territory and the challenges faced there, the conversation will be of interest to those concerned with criminal justice issues for First Nations peoples across Australia and internationally.

Topics to be covered include:

Aboriginal language police cautions developed by the NT Aboriginal Interpreter Service;
Protocols for working with interpreters in the Northern Territory Supreme Court and Local Court;
The formulation of special rules of evidence to accommodate cultural differences such as the Anunga Rules and the extent to which those rules find expression in the Evidence (National Uniform) Legislation Act (NT);
Issues relating to the examination and cross-examination of Aboriginal witnesses;
The challenges faced by the trier of fact in assessing the credibility and reliability of indigenous witnesses, including the accused and finding the facts in a summary judge alone criminal trial;
Aboriginal customary law and sentencing in the Northern Territory.
About Chief Judge Dr John Lowndes, Local Court of the Northern Territory

His Honour Chief Judge Dr John Lowndes was appointed a Magistrate of the Northern Territory in January 1990. He has been a judicial officer for close to three decades. Until March 2013 he served as a Magistrate of the Northern Territory Magistrates Court and during that time presided over matters in both the criminal and civil jurisdictions of the Court. During that period he held the following positions while performing his magisterial functions:

Chief Coroner of the Northern Territory/Inaugural Territory Coroner 1990- 1996
Chairman of the Agents Licensing Board 1990-1993
Inaugural President of the Mental Health Review Tribunal 2000-2001
Managing Magistrate of the Work Health Court 2004 - 2013
Chairman of the Lands Planning and Mining Tribunal 2007-2012
In March 2013, His Honour was appointed Deputy Chief Magistrate of the Northern Territory, a position he occupied until he was appointed Chief Magistrate in September 2013. When the title of Northern Territory Magistrates was changed to “Judge” in May 2016 he became the Chief Judge of the Local Court of the Northern Territory, and will continue to hold that position until his retirement on 4 October 2019.

His Honour holds a number of tertiary qualifications: a combined Arts/Law Degree, a Diploma in Jurisprudence and a Diploma in Criminology and a Degree of Master of Laws (Hons Class 1) from the University of Sydney. He also holds a Degree of Doctor of Philosophy from Charles Darwin University.

He has also written about the historical development and judicialisation of the magistracy, judicial independence and accountability, the delivery of justice in the lower courts and the role of judicial associations in a modern democracy.

His Honour is a former President of the Association of Australian Magistrates (AAM) and a former President of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA). He currently holds the position of Immediate Past President of the CMJA.