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Wednesday, 7 December 1938

Mr BLAIN (Northern Territory) (3:31 AM) . - I take this opportunity to endeavour to obtain justice for a constituent of mine in Darwin who has been denied justice by the police authorities there. A valueless cheque was passed on to my constituent by another person. He complained to the police, and left the cheque with them, but no action was taken. Singularly enough, the same person passed on two valueless cheques, with the result that he was arrested and served two terms of imprisonment. My constituent complains that he was unjustly treated. Having failed to obtain a satisfactory reply from the Minister for the Interior or the Darwin police, I have endeavoured to obtain a reply from the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies). Un fortunately, the police at Darwin are not under the control of the AttorneyGeneral, although they are anxious to be so controlled. On the 2nd December, I asked the Minister for the Interior a number of questions but, in replying to them, the department resorted to a subterfuge. The questions which I asked were -

1.   Is a man named Andrew Cox employed orhas he been employed by the department inthe vicinity of Darwin?

2.   If so, did the Darwin police, prior to his employment by the department, arrest him, with the result thathe served two sentences of imprisonment in Fanny Bay Gaol for passing valueless cheques?

3.   Is there knottier charge outstanding against him in which the police refuse to take action, though holding a fraudulent cheque signed by him, and despite the urging of the victim, Mr. H. Hickey, a Darwin citizen, who demands justice?

4.   Will he refer the matter to the AttorneyGeneral for advice and notion to give the same remedy to Mr. Hickey as was available to other residents?

To those questions, the Minister replied -

1.   Coxwas employed as a member of a survey gang of the Commonweatlh Works Branch in June and August of this year.

2.   On the9th September,1937, he was convicted before the Police Court, Darwin, on two charges of issuing a valueless cheque and was sentenced to imprisonment for six months and nine months respectively.

3.   A few days prior to the hearing of the charges referred to in 2, Mr. H. Hickey discussed with the Inspector of Police at Darwin the question of a valueless cheque he had received from Cox for £7 for goods supplied. On being informed that Cox was facing two charges for similar offences and that the sentences of any further charge could not be made cumulative, Mr. Hickey stated that he did not wish to proceed with the complaint of passing a valueless cheque, but would recover the goods. On the 10th March,1938, Mr. Hickey again saw the police and suggested that action be taken against Cox through the Police Court. As the time limit of six months fixed by section 52 of the Justices Ordinance 1928 of the Northern Territory had then expired, Mr. Hickey was advised that the only course opon to him was to take civil action for the value ofthe goods supplied.

Section 49 of the Justices Ordinance sets out -

A complaint should be made to a justice in any case where -

(a)   any person has committed, or is suspected to have committed any simpleoffence.

Section 52 sets out -

Where no time is specially limited for making the complaint by any statute relating to the particular case, the complaint shall be made within six months from the time when the matter of the complaint arose.

The departmenthas used a subterfuge. In view of the fact that the police took possession of the cheque, it was incumbent on them, not on my constituent, to take action. Every one recognizes that the passing of a valueless cheque is an indictable offence, but yesterday, in order to ascertain whether the department took that view, I asked these questions - 1.Is it a fact that section 52 of the Justices Ordinance ofthe Northern Territory (No. 20 of . 1928) applies only to charges for simple offences andhas no application to information for indictable offences?

2.   Is the offence of passing a valueless cheque in payment For goods an indictable offence ? and receivedthe following reply: -

It is not the practice to express opinions on matters of law in reply to questions.

The reply I was given is a familiar one to honorable members. A grave injustice has been done to my constituent, and I ask the Assistant Minister to place before the Attorney-General all of the facts in order that the matter might be rectified.

Mr Thompson - I undertake toplace the honorable gentleman's representations before the Attorney-General.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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