This is a history of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory commencing from 1873 when it was first envisaged, through to its creation in 1911, and until modern times, seen in the light of the Territory’s economic, social, religious, anthropological, political and constitutional development. The lives and work of its various judges, and their relationships with government; and the Acts and policies of both the Commonwealth and Territory governments form much of the background to its triumphs and failures which are quintessentially Territorian.
Throughout the 20th century, the Court survived a judicial sacking, being left without a Judge in office, riots, two royal commissions, division into two courts, reconstitution and reconstruction of three occasions, the bombing of Darwin, Cyclone Tracy, and poor facilities to become eventually a modern institution with a new and grand courthouse in Darwin.
Other themes which are explored include trial by jury, sentencing powers, judicial independence, relations with the media, interpreters, mandatory sentencing, euthanasia, assimilation, Aboriginal land rights, the peculiar problems relating to the trial and sentencing of Aborigines as well as a detailed examination of some of the important causes celebre of the times- the trials of Tuckiar, the Chamberlains and Bradley John Murdock amongst many others.
All aspects of the Court’s history are considered - libraries, court buildings. circuit courts, administration, court staff, appeal courts, rules of court, judicial appointments, chief justices, judges, masters, registrars and sheriffs, as well as the legal issues of the day, seen in the context of the Territory’s socio-political evolution.
Justice Mildren’s book is never at risk of sinking to platitude or banality. Its author has a passion, informed by detailed knowledge and research, for the Territory and its people. - Robert French AC, Chief Justice of Australia
Understated irony is an effective weapon in Dean Mildren’s hands ... [he] possesses a clear historical vision that encompasses the world in which the Supreme Court has to operate and that makes his current work a book for all. Read it and be informed; revisit your visions and your prejudices; rethink your concepts of Territory justice. - Alan Powell, Emeritus Professor of History
Table of Contents
South Australia’s Northern Territory
The Judges of the Northern Territory
The Establishment of the Supreme Court
The Gilruth Years
The Court and the Royal Commission
The Two Territories and Justice Mallam
The Court in 1933-1934
The Years before the War 1935-1939
The War Years
Post-War Reconstruction and the Return of the Court to Darwin
The Northern Territory Supreme Court Act 1961
The Growth of the Court before Self-Government
Changes after Self-Government
The Trial of the Century
The O’Leary Court
The Asche Court
The First Martin Court
The Second Martin Court