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Royal Commissioner Brian Martin Steps Down


1 August 2016 at 1:39 pm
Wendy Williams
The royal commissioner into juvenile justice Brian Martin has resigned just four days after being appointed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.


Wendy Williams | 1 August 2016 at 1:39 pm


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Royal Commissioner Brian Martin Steps Down
1 August 2016 at 1:39 pm

The royal commissioner into juvenile justice Brian Martin has resigned just four days after being appointed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

People behind bars

The former supreme court judge confirmed he would stand down at a media conference in Canberra on Monday following reports about a possible conflict of interest.

Martin said that criticisms of him had been “disingenuous” and “ill-informed”.

However he told reporters he would not have the full confidence of sections of the Indigenous community which had a “vital interest” in the joint Commonwealth-NT inquiry.

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

“I am not prepared to proceed in the face of that risk. This royal commission is far too important to undertake that risk and, in the public interest, personal considerations must take second place.”

Martin stressed however that his resignation did not imply he doubted his capacity to be independent.

He also said his decision was not a criticism of the government, prime minister or attorney general.

In an official statement published on Monday he said his decision was in the public interest.

“The inquiry to be undertaken as royal commissioner is extraordinarily important,” he said.

“It is essential that those persons and organisations directly affected by the inquiry, and the broader community, have full confidence in the independence and competence of the commissioner and, ultimately, in the findings of the commissioner.

“Since my appointment was announced I have been extremely disappointed with the disingenuous and ill-informed comment that has ensued.

“However, notwithstanding the ill-informed nature of the commentary, it has become apparent that, rightly or wrongly, in this role I would not have the full confidence of sections of the Indigenous community which has a vital interest in the inquiry.”

Martin said his family had been drawn into the debate and he was not prepared to allow the “unwarranted intrusion” into the life of his daughter to continue.

Since his appointment last Thursday, questions had surfaced regarding his perceived conflicts of interest, connected to his time as chief justice of the NT Supreme Court from 2004 to 2010 and his daughter’s previous job.

He was forced to issue a statement on Friday after it was revealed his daughter, Joanna Martin, had been employed as a justice adviser to territory Labor attorney-general Delia Lawrie from late 2009 to March 2011, the same time period that will be covered by the royal commission.

There have also been calls for at least one Indigenous co-commissioner to be appointed.

The commission follows a damning ABC Four Corners report into abuse in the juvenile detention system in the Northern Territory.

The ABC program likened the juvenile detention system to Guantanamo Bay in the US showing footage of a 17-year-old strapped into a mechanical restraint chair in the Northern Territory’s Don Dale detention facility, along with a series of other videos, showing the repeated stripping, assault and mistreatment of him and other boys including the use of tear gas.


Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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