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Expert welcomes court recognition of tribal punishment

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 2 September 2004

An expert on tribal punishment has described the court sentence handed down to a Kimberley woman as "appropriate".

The Halls Creek woman was given a suspended jail term for killing her husband, partly because she is required to undergo tribal punishment.

Deborah Sturt admitted stabbing Patrick Seela last September because he was unfaithful.

The University of Western Australia's Crime Research Centre is currently working on a review of Aboriginal law on behalf of the Law Reform Commission.

The centre's Harry Blagg described the sentence as a good outcome.

"Traditional punishment is a fact of life for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley and that could take place, in which case the woman would have been facing two forms of punishment and I think that's unjust and unacceptable," he said.

The Law Society of WA says tribal punishment issues are complicated and difficult.

The society's Ian Weldon says tribal punishment is currently being considered by the WA Law Reform Commission which is expected to release a report next year.

He says lawyers will welcome the report.

"We give some sort of de facto recognition to the fact that sometimes people are subject in a sense to two systems," he said.

"It's very hard to know just how far one should go in recognising all of customary or tribal law."

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