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Now to the story...

Call to set up Aboriginal court

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 5 Oct 2002.

Aboriginal lawyer Michael Mansell says his call for an Aboriginal court
throughout Australia would not create two legal systems.

Mr Mansell says an Aboriginal Bail and Sentencing Court (ABSC) would
reduce the higher number of Aborigines who are sent to jail.

He says the idea of Aboriginal courts was first recommended in the
Australian Law Reform Commission's Report into Aboriginal Customary Law in

Mr Mansell says in Tasmania, Aborigines are six times more likely than
white people to be put in jail, and on the mainland the chances increase
to 16 times more likely.

He says Australia already has many layers of laws, ranging from federal to
state and local government, and another layer may even help with a special

"So in Tasmania for example, you have five laws that apply to all people
in Tasmania and all we're saying is there should be a sixth system that
can deal with a specialised problem - in this case the unacceptable high
rate of imprisonment of Aborigines," Mr Mansell said.

He says the present legal system is part of the problem, as lawyers and
the judiciary are simply applying the law regardless of the consequences.

Mr Mansell says his idea would not necessarily cost any more.

"The Institute of Criminology has always said that it is far cheaper not
to put people in prison than it is to put them in the high numbers that
Australia does," Mr Mansell said.

"I think the figures fluctuate from between $70,000 and $130,000 per
person, per year in prison - this scheme would save that sort of money
each time we didn't jail someone," he said.



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