Slow Murri Court take-up due to sentencing ‘intensity’

JUST 130 indigenous defendants have been through Queensland's 11 Murri Courts since they were re-instated four months ago.

But a leading indigenous lawyer said the intensity of the Murri Court's sentencing procedure led to a slow legal process.

There have been 54 referrals to the court in Rockhampton, 17 in Mackay and six in the recently opened Toowoomba court.

There have been no sittings or referrals at the Cherbourg Murri Court since it was launched on June 22.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service Queensland principal legal officer Greg Shadbolt said the sentences from Murri Courts were more involved and the process more confrontational than a normal court process.

He said the sentencing process involves referrals to counselling and can take months to complete.

"With that level of intensity, participatory numbers are likely to be less," he said.

"We have never been of the view that the Murri Court process constitutes a 'diversionary option' as all before the court are clearly enmeshed in the criminal justice system and sentenced in relation to their offending behaviour," Mr Shadbolt said.

"The Murri Court requires a defendant to play a far more active role in the sentencing process - and in so doing, take ownership of their actions. Indeed, many have found such quite confronting - as they cannot simply sit back and allow their lawyer to do all of the talking."

He said he had seen re-offenders opt to use a conventional magistrates court instead of returning to Murri Court as they found the process "too confronting".

"Contrary to the view in some quarters, the Murri Court has never been a soft sentencing option - quite the contrary," Mr Shadbolt said.

The Newman government abolished the Murri Court system in 2012 but it was re-established by the Palaszczuk government. The first Murri Court to re-open was in Rockhampton in April. - ARM NEWSDESK

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