This is a history of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory commencing from 1873 when it was first envisaged, through to its creation in 1911, and until modern times, seen in the light of the Territory’s economic, social, religious, anthropological, political and constitutional development. The lives and work of its various judges, and their relationships with government; and the Acts and policies of both the Commonwealth and Territory governments form much of the background to its triumphs and failures which are quintessentially Territorian.
Throughout the 20th century, the Court survived a judicial sacking, being left without a Judge in office, riots, two royal commissions, division into two courts, reconstitution and reconstruction of three occasions, the bombing of Darwin, Cyclone Tracy, and poor facilities to become eventually a modern institution with a new and grand courthouse in Darwin.
Other themes which are explored include trial by jury, sentencing powers, judicial independence, relations with the media, interpreters, mandatory sentencing, euthanasia, assimilation, Aboriginal land rights, the peculiar problems relating to the trial and sentencing of Aborigines as well as a detailed examination of some of the important causes celebre of the times- the trials of Tuckiar, the Chamberlains and Bradley John Murdock amongst many others.
All aspects of the Court’s history are considered – libraries, court buildings. circuit courts, administration, court staff, appeal courts, rules of court, judicial appointments, chief justices, judges, masters, registrars and sheriffs, as well as the legal issues of the day, seen in the context of the Territory’s socio-political evolution.