By Phoebe Stewart
Attorney General John Elferink has denied claims that the Northern Territory Government's new sex offenders law could be used to political advantage.
The Serious Sex Offenders Act was passed in the Legislative Assembly last night after several hours of debate.
The law allows the Attorney-General to apply to the courts to keep sex offenders in jail beyond their original sentence period if they're seen as a danger to the community.
The Opposition, Independent MLA Gerry Wood and lawyers have all expressed concern about the inclusion of the Attorney-General's role in the legislation and the possible breach of separation of powers.
Mr Elferink detailed to parliament a case of the rape of a three-year-old girl, which, he said demonstrated the need for a bill to extend jail terms for recidivist sex offenders.
He said that if the law been passed when he first tabled a bill while in Opposition, a recidivist offender would probably have remained in jail and the child might not have been molested.
"(We) cannot come into this place and bang on about the rights of offenders, and the rights of people to be at liberty, and all those sorts of things, and say we agree with the philosophy of this bill," he said.
"This is the sort of nonsense which meant that this legislation was not in place to protect children."
The president of the Northern Territory's Criminal Lawyers Association president Russell Goldflam says politicians should keep their noses out of courtrooms.
He says the Attorney-General should not be involved in making decisions on who should be freed and when.
"We have an independent statutory authority, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, established to just do that," he said.
Nhulunbuy MLA Lynne Walker told parliament the Opposition wanted the Government to defer the bill and strengthen sex offender laws by amending the Sentencing Act.
She said that research on detaining prisoners for crimes they haven't yet committed, or predicting a "person's dangerousness", showed that that it often resulted in errors.
The Independent Member for Nelson, Gerry Wood, said other jurisdictions that have introduced similar laws have not included the Attorney-General in the process.
"In this Act, the Attorney General is mentioned at least 38 times," he said.
"Why do we need that?"
"We don't need what could be seen to be interference from the Attorney-General when it is the role of the Supreme Court and the DPP."
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