Bail reform will make criminal justice system fairer

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Related Project: Access to Justice

November 28, 2012

The
NSW Government today released details of its planned reform of the NSW Bail
Act. PIAC
believes the plan represents common-sense reforms of NSW bail law.

‘The
Government has recognised that the Bail Act is overly complex and impacts
harshly on vulnerable people for no discernible benefit,’ said PIAC chief
executive officer, Edward Santow.

‘The
Government’s reforms strike a better balance in protecting the community and vulnerable people caught up in the criminal justice system.

‘The reforms will simplify the NSW law on bail, making it fairer, more
consistent and better suited for the whole community.

‘These are significant reforms. We call on the Government to bring
together the NSW Police, the courts and the community so that the new law is
properly understood and implemented,’ Mr Santow said. 

Key aspects of the Government’s
bail reform plans are:

  • The complex set of presumptions in the current Bail Act will
    be replaced. There will be by a right to release for fine-only and most summary
    offences.
  • When considering whether to grant bail, courts will consider
    the true risk to the community of releasing the person.
  • In bail decisions, courts will also consider important
    factors such as the person’s ability to prepare for their trial, any mental
    illness or special vulnerability (eg, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
    background).
  • People under the age of 18 will be able to make a second
    application for bail.

‘The reforms proposed by the NSW Government are based on solid evidence
about how the law operates now, and what is really needed to protect the
community,’ Mr Santow said.

‘While we support many of the proposed reforms, more should be done to ensure
that the Bail Act strikes the right balance in protecting the community,
without causing injustice to people who have been accused, but not convicted,
of a crime. For example, the restrictions on people making repeat applications
for bail should be closely examined.’

The changes are in response to the NSW Law Reform Commission (LRC) report on Bail, released in April 2012. PIAC contributed
a detailed submission to the LRC review, based on its experience working with
people experiencing homelessness and other disadvantaged people.

CONTACT:
Dominic O’Grady, PIAC Senior
Media & Communications Adviser: 0478 739 280.

Related content: Bail presumption abolished in NSW reforms, AAP, 28 November 2012.

Photo: Flickr

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