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Royal commissioner into NT youth detention quits amid criticism


Former Northern Territory chief justice Brian Ross Martin has stepped down as head of a royal commission into the territory’s youth detention system following criticism of his appointment.

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There had been accusations of a conflict of interest over his daughter’s employment as an adviser to the former NT attorney-general.

Questions were also raised about whether Justice Martin had a personal conflict, given he may have sentenced young people involved in the inquiry who were potentially abused behind bars.

He said his decision to resign was solely his own.

“My resignation does not imply any criticism of the Government, Prime Minister or the Attorney-General,” he told reporters in Canberra today.

He said it became apparent, “rightly or wrongly”, that he would not have the full confidence of sections of the indigenous community that have a vital interest in the inquiry.

“As a consequence, the effectiveness of the commission is likely to be compromised from the outset.

“I am not prepared to proceed in the face of that risk. This royal commission is far too important to undertake that risk.”

Justice Martin dismissed suggestions that he would have ignored or not given sufficient weight to indigenous issues.

“This suggestion is wrong,” he said, adding that he had been making plans to consult widely with indigenous organisations and individuals.

Given the response to his appointment, Justice Martin said he believed there was much to be said for the suggestion that the commissioner should come from outside the NT.

As well, he said, there was some advantage “both in practice and in appearance” in having an indigenous person as commissioner.

“But, whichever way it goes, it is incorrect to suggest that someone who is not indigenous could not conduct this properly,” he said.



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