The Chief Minister and Police Minister need to explain to Territorians why details of serious sex crimes are being concealed from the public, the Opposition says, accusing the government of political interference following a series of reports on suppressed sexual assaults by the NT Independent.
The Gunner Government and the NT Police continued to avoid the NT Independent’s questions yesterday, including over potential conflicts involving a former ministerial adviser currently running the police’s media unit.
CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro said the Gunner Government needed to answer serious questions around their potential involvement in suppressing information from getting to the public.
“Over the last two weeks, we have heard instances of the most horrific violent and sexual crimes on Territorians, and yet Territorians haven’t known about it until the media have obtained that information through leaks,” Ms Finocchiaro said at a press conference yesterday.
“Now that we’ve seen three very serious instances of horrendous sexual assault not being disclosed to Territorians, people are starting to ask questions around what level of involvement the Gunner Government is having in stopping police media from providing this information to the public.”
Ms Finocchiaro’s comments come as the NT Independent sent questions to NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker, media manager Rob Cross, Police Minister Nicole Manison and Chief Minister Michael Gunner over what influence the fifth floor is exerting on police media not to report sex crimes.
Police media manager Rob Cross was adviser to Natasha Fyles before heading up the police’s media unit
Police media manager Rob Cross worked as media adviser for Health Minister Natasha Fyles when she was Attorney General in 2019, before assuming the role of director of communications for the NT Police.
His last press release for Ms Fyles was issued in July 2019. It’s understood he assumed the role of police media director shortly after leaving Ms Fyles’s office.
The circumstances around his departure from the fifth floor to run the NT Police’s media unit are unclear.
He was previously news editor of ABC Darwin before joining the Labor Government.
Mr Cross did not respond to questions yesterday.
Mr Gunner and Ms Manison were also questioned about whether they had attempted to suppress information on sex crimes, but did not respond.
Ms Finocchiaro said while it is paramount that police must undertake delicate investigations concerning sexual assault crimes, it is also important to let the public know about the nature of the assaults.
“No one is asking for information that discloses any personal or identifying factors, but what Territorians do deserve to know is the nature of assault crimes that happened right across the Territory,” she said.
“The Chief Minister and the Police Minister need to start to explain to Territorians why their government is hiding that information from victims and from Territorians.”
In the last week, three incidents were exposed as being kept from the public, including the alleged rape of a three-year-old in Karama, the alleged anal rape of an Alice Springs woman while she slept by a 15-year-old last month, and the alleged attempted gang rape of a woman who was dragged from her car by teens in Pinelands in January.
The teens in the attempted gang rape and the rape of the Alice Springs woman were on bail or suspended sentences at the time of the offences.
Opposition to present new bail laws during parliamentary sittings
The Opposition is set to propose a mandatory presumption against bail next week, Ms Finocchiaro said.
The proposed amendments would also reinstate the criminal offence of breach of bail for youth, which was also abolished by the Labor Government on the recommendation of the royal commission into youth detention.
“We don’t think that if you’re a repeat offender, you should have a presumption in favor of bail, and we certainly will be bringing back in our legislation that breach of bail condition as an offense,” Ms Finocchiaro said.
“The Gunner Government cares so little about crime and so little about their legislative values that they don’t even realise they’ve legislated to ensure that repeat youth offenders have a presumption in favour of bail.
“We’re going to lead from Opposition and introduce bail reform next week. We challenge the government to step up, support our legislation, and let’s start dealing with this revolving door of bail.”