Bail reform urgently needed but must give full discretion to the courts

5th Mar 2023

Victorian Attorney-General Jacelyn Symes proposed bail reforms announced today are welcome but there needs to be wholesale bail law reform says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

Courts must have, as was the case for many years in Victoria, the broadest discretion to consider bail and not be restricted with complex rules and tests.

“Bail reform is overdue so we welcome the Government’s decision to make change but the courts must not be hemmed in by complex new tests,” said Greg Barns SC, spokesperson for the ALA.

“The details of this proposed reform legislation are very important given the complexity of the Victorian bail act which runs to a staggering 119 pages. In contrast Tasmania’s bail law is only 24 pages.

“The presumption must be in favour of bail for all offences with the courts given full discretion to determine the risks to public safety or reoffending in determining if that presumption is displaced.

“A simplified process with the presumption in favour of bail is required. We urgently need to decrease the number of unsentenced people in prisons.

“Back in 2017 the ALA warned that the proposed changes to bail laws would be harmful and unfortunately that has proven to be the case. This harm has disproportionately impacted First Nations people and the results are tragic.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are overrepresented on remand and we know that they experience unique disadvantages in their contact with the criminal justice system.

“We look forward to reviewing the detail of the proposed legislation and providing input to the Government.”

Tags: Victoria Criminal justice Greg Barns Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples