Lawyer Anthony Elliott, left,  and former NT Police Commissioner John McRoberts arrive at the Supreme Court on Monday
Lawyer Anthony Elliott, left, and former NT Police Commissioner John McRoberts arrive at the Supreme Court on Monday

Former top cop spends night behind bars

DISGRACED former police commissioner John Ringland McRoberts spent last night alone in a concrete cell, wearing the standard uniform of a remand prisoner: an orange prison-issued T-shirt, a pair of footy shorts and some cheap double-plugger thongs.

The former top cop's face sank on Monday afternoon when Supreme Court Justice Dean Mildren adjourned McRoberts's sentencing proceedings with the words: "the prisoner will be remanded in custody".

McRoberts, 59, was found guilty last month of attempting to pervert the course of justice, a charge which carries a maximum 15-year jail sentence.

The charge stems from a "course of conduct" in which McRoberts was found to have "deflected" and "frustrated" a criminal investigation in which his secret lover, corrupt travel agent Xana Kamitsis, was a prime arrest target.

Then  NT Police Commissioner John McRoberts in 2011
Then NT Police Commissioner John McRoberts in 2011

McRoberts's barrister, Tony Elliott, told the court there was still a possibility McRoberts could be fined, or serve his time on home detention, even though he no longer has a home in the Northern Territory.

But Justice Dean Mildren said it was "too late now" for him to consider such options.

Mr Elliott said McRoberts, if jailed, would likely serve all his time in high security and would have few, if any visitors.

"People who were his friends here all see him as a pariah," he said.

Mr Elliott said it was "speculative" and not based on evidence to suggest McRoberts's downfall had "brought the Northern Territory Police Force into disrepute".

A handful of friends and former colleagues, including a few notable Territorians, vouched for McRoberts in written references.

Mr Elliott said Kelvin Currie, the Deputy Coroner, wrote of the "immense" fall from police commissioner to convicted criminal.

Legal Aid commissioner Susan Cox QC said she had been impressed by McRoberts during his time as police commissioner and that it was obvious he had suffered physically and emotionally during his trial.

Mr Elliott said McRoberts's offending had been the subject of "enormous public scrutiny" over the last three or four years, and that the coverage of his trial had been "focused on the very salacious areas" of his time as commissioner.

Justice Mildren, who had been critical of press coverage in the lead-up to the trial of Kamitsis, said other than "one or two headlines" he wouldn't call the coverage salacious.

Mr Elliott said McRoberts now agrees he should have acted differently.

"It is accepted now that the relationship is one which compromised him in a number of ways in relation to the conduct of the operation," he said.

"We accept he was compromised, we accept he should have known better.

"We accept that he was a police officer, we accept that the community expects more from the police."

Mr Elliott said not stepping aside from the investigation because of his relationship with Kamitsis was "a decision (McRoberts) has been paying for now for the past four years and will continue to pay for the rest of his life".

He said McRoberts had been "coy" about how the case had affected him.

"He hasn't been dealing nearly as well as his outward appearance would indicate," he said.

"He really is more anxious about this than he lets on."

Justice Mildren said the case was made serious because McRoberts had "used his position" and "abused his power".

Crown Prosecutor Mary Chalmers said McRoberts's former job was a significant one in the criminal justice system, "not far off" the level of power a judge held.

"The Crown submission is that law enforcement is a key part of the criminal justice system," she said.

"Mr McRoberts was at the very top of the lead law enforcement agency in the Northern Territory."

"He was in a commanding position to pervert the course of justice."

"This is offending that strikes at the core of the integrity of the administration of justice."

She said the "excellent work record" of McRoberts, including more than three decades as a police officer, should be given less weight than it might otherwise, because he had abused the position of power he occupied.

"People trusted him," she said.

"They trusted that he was speaking in accordance with his oath to always serve the public interest above his own."

She said his suggestion, put by Mr Elliott, that his offending took place in circumstances where his inner circle of subordinates could not be relied upon as much as he would have liked was "supremely arrogant".

She said it "doesn't gel" that McRoberts' protracted offending was an "inevitable" result of a "simple bad decision" to not declare his relationship.

Justice Mildren is due to sentence McRoberts shortly after 10am on Tuesday.

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