After reading only a portion of Northern Territory Chief Justice Brian Martin’s attack on Guardian journalist Andrew Clark this morning for his report suggesting that the chief prosecutor had referred to the judge by his first name, Crikey called the Northern Territory Supreme Court and got hold of the written transcript of yesterday’s proceedings, from which we are pleased to be able to publish selected extracts.

Interestingly, the jury was left in the room and allowed to watch as prominent Darwin QC Rex Wild chose to raise the issue with Chief Justice Martin, asking him to personally address the issue of Clark’s reporting.

MR WILD: The part of the article by which I was particularly distressed was a part which suggested that although I behaved myself in court pretty well most of the time, on occasions I don’t and there was an occasion when I addressed your Honour by your first name in court during the course of legal submissions. Your Honour will know that I did not do that. My learned friend I think acknowledges that I did not do that. Nobody in this courtroom heard me do it, I did not do it and I was very upset by it.

Wild was, as he says, very upset, and even more so because members of his own family read the accusations in Melbourne and Sydney, although he admits he was happy that the story never made it to Darwin. Wild then handed the matter over to Chief Justice Martin, who questioned Fairfax’s legal representative, Mr Cris Cureton, about Guardian journalist Andrew Clark (not Clarke, as in the transcript).

HIS HONOUR: Where’s Mr Clarke?

MR CURETON: I don’t know, I know that he’s no longer in the jurisdiction, your Honour.

HIS HONOUR: He’s scarpered, has he. Seeing that his article portrayed Darwin as somewhat of a “hick town”, how did he get out, by horse and carriage?

MR CURETON: I’m afraid I can’t assist the court – – –

HIS HONOUR: I’m surprised anyone who knew what he’d written in Darwin would give him a horse to get out. Mr Cureton, I must say that the article was objectionable for a number of reasons. It not only reflected unfairly and inaccurately on Mr Wild, it also reflected upon me, the court and the system of criminal justice in the Territory.

The Chief Justice continued to object to the representation of Darwin in Clark’s report and the suggestion that Darwin is somehow a backward city, and that the Falconio trial has given the city some excitement, like a country town when the fair comes around.

HIS HONOUR: Disturbingly, in referring to Mr Wild addressing my (sic) by my Christian name, the article said that ‘there is an impressive façade, which slips’. Now that is highly objectionable, it conveys the impression that the court is presenting a ‘facade’ that is a face which does not truly reflect reality and that is utterly incorrect….

I need to add this, nobody in the Territory minds being sent up in a fair way, cities around the world are sent up in one form or another by journalists and we all have a sense of humour, but there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing things and people who blow in for a short time, send us up unfairly and then scarper are not appreciated.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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