• Jack Sultan-Page died in a hit-and-run (Supplied via ABC News) (Supplied)
Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner has criticised the sentence handed down to a Darwin hit-and-run driver, and says there appears to be two sets of laws for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Territorians.
By
Danny Teece-Johnson

Source:
NITV News
22 Jul 2015 - 5:31 PM  UPDATED 22 Jul 2015 - 6:56 PM

There has been a public outcry over an 18-month suspended sentence and six months of home detention for Matthew Alexander who ran over an 8-year-old boy who later died in hospital in November 2014.

Jack Sultan-Page was hit by a car while riding his BMX bike in Palmerston near Darwin. He was taken to hospital but later died.

The court heard that Mr Alexander appeared to be "heavily affected" by methamphetamine when he left his home. The judge said the role drugs played in the accident was not known because Alexander had fled the scene.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said he was bewildered by the sentence and could understand the community outrage.

"We look at our mob going to jail for the simple thing of not paying fines, yet someone can be involved in the death of a child and there is no sanction whatsoever," Mr Gooda said.

"And I just find it hard to comprehend and I think that any reasonable person, it doesn't matter where they come from or whether they are Aboriginal or not, would have difficulty in understanding this decision."

"We look at our mob going to jail for the simple thing of not paying fines, yet someone can be involved in the death of a child and there is no sanction whatsoever"

When NITV News asked if there were two sets of laws in the NT, one for Indigenous and another for non-Indigenous peoples, he said: "Well it's hard to get away from making that conclusion when you look at the facts."

"And the facts are that our people are locked up more and more than anyone else up there and they certainly, a lot of those people, I'd say the great majority of those people have not been involved in the death of a child.

"We've had people put in jail for things like these paperless arrests and we've had deaths in custody around that sort of stuff, so not only are people going to jail, they are dying in jail.

"Well it's hard to get away from making that conclusion when you look at the facts"

"I can understand the judge looking at jail as the last option, well I think they should start applying that to Aboriginal people as well."

In his sentencing remarks, Justice Southwood read a statement from Jack Sultan-Page's mother.

"Jack was always thoughtful, he always brought something home for me," she said.

"He was a little man but with a big heart, he would protect other kids from bullies."

RECOMMENDED READING
A generation lost if Indigenous youth incarceration rate continues: Amnesty
Amnesty International says an entire generation will be lost if Indigenous youth continue to be incarcerated at 24 times the rate than non-Indigenous youth.

Michael Page, the father of a young boy killed in the hit and run said he was devastated and that the system had failed, after the man driving the car avoided a jail sentence.

"[Alexander] hasn't got the full hilt of it. He got a slap on the wrist is what he got."

There is a belief in the Northern Territory Aboriginal community that there are two laws, one for Aboriginal people and one for the rest.

Mick Gooda said Aboriginal people needed to feel that the justice system was fair and equal for all, and that cases such as this eroded that confidence.

Matthew Alexander was given an 18-month suspended sentence and six months in home detention for failing to stop and render assistance to the victim. He was fined $2,090 for possession and the use of drugs, and driving dangerously.