New paperless arrest laws in Northern Territory under challenge

New provisions of the Northern Territory’s Police Administration Act, dealing with “paperless arrests”, are under challenge by human rights groups.

The provisions, introduced in November 2014, are aimed at removing troublemakers from a particular situation before an offence escalates or intensifies.

But opponents of the laws say they befit a police state and will disproportionately affect Aboriginal people.

The High Court challenge is being brought by the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, an advocacy group providing legal services in the Northern Territory. The Human Rights Law Centre is also assisting with the legal case.

Dubbed the “paperless arrest” laws, last year’s amendments to the Police Administration Act allow persons to be arrested for summary offences and held in custody for up to four hours without significant paperwork or charge.

According to Adam Giles, the Chief Minister, “Police can now delay the completion of infringement paperwork until later in their shift, allowing them to get back on the beat.”

Summary offences are offences that would normally be addressed by an infringement notice and a fine. These include, for example, failing to keep a yard clean, playing a musical instrument so as to annoy or the singing of “any obscene song or ballad”.