Child-sex elder gets one month
August 18, 2005
A ONE-MONTH sentence for under-age sex with an Aboriginal girl has been justified on the grounds it was a clash of cultures and generations.
The Northern Territory Director of Public Prosecutions has indicated he may appeal against the leniency of the sentence imposed on a 55-year-old Aboriginal man who abused his 14-year-old "promised wife".
Territory Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Martin travelled last week to the remote Aboriginal community of Yarralin, west of Katherine, to hear the "extremely difficult case".
The Aboriginal elder pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and having sex with a child.
The teenager had been promised to him as a wife, according to Aboriginal law, when she was four. After rumours in the community that the teenager might have had sex with her boyfriend, the man hit her with a boomerang and had sex with her.
Justice Martin said the act of intercourse was a "very serious offence". But he sentenced the man to 24 months in prison, suspended after one month.
The teenage victim has reportedly fled the community, headed for Darwin, after locals blamed her for the elder's imprisonment.
In sentencing the man, Justice Martin said he had a "great deal of sympathy" for the offender and the difficulties he had in moving between traditional culture and Territory law.
"It is always difficult when Northern Territory law is in conflict with traditional Aboriginal law, but you and other members of your community, and other Aboriginal communities throughout Australia, must understand Northern Territory law is the law that must be obeyed by everyone, including Aboriginal men like you who have grown up under traditional law," the judge said.
The DPP, Rex Wild QC, said yesterday that he was waiting for advice before deciding whether to appeal.
They label it a "very serious offence" - and "promised wife" or not, intercourse with a 14-year-old, as well as aggravated assault, should surely yield more than just 24 months in prison, suspended after one month.
Are we going by the NT and Australian laws here, or "traditional Aboriginal law"?? Seriously. It's stupid. Utterly stupid. Our legal system is a joke.