The Andrews Labor Government will make it harder than ever for serious offenders to get bail in Victoria and community safety will be given a much higher priority in a complete overhaul of the state’s bail system.
Under the reforms, there will be a presumption against bail for serious violent offences and sexual offences, police will be given more powers to remand accused people, and bail justices will no longer consider the most serious offences.
The major reforms form part of the Labor Government’s response to the Bail Review conducted by former Director of Public Prosecutions and Supreme Court Justice, Mr Paul Coghlan QC, following the Bourke Street tragedy on 20 January 2017.
While the review found that the current bail system is already arguably “the most onerous in Australia”, it made further recommendations to strengthen the system.
The review made 37 recommendations in total. The Government will implement, or go beyond, each of the recommendations in the first report, and conduct further consultation on the longer-term recommendations outlined in the second report.
The Government will amend the Bail Act 1977 so that decision makers, including magistrates and judges, will be required to place a higher priority on community safety when making bail decisions.
Under the changes, bail will be refused for a number of new offences including aggravated home invasion and aggravated carjacking, unless there are exceptional circumstances. This brings these offences into line with murder and terrorism.
There will also be a presumption against bail for many more offences, including:
- armed robbery
- intentionally or recklessly causing serious injury with gross violence
- culpable driving causing death
- dangerous driving causing death or serious injury
- dangerous or negligent driving while pursued by police
- persistent contravention of a family violence intervention order
People who commit serious indictable offences while on bail, summons, parole, under sentence or at large, will not be granted bail again unless they can prove there are exceptional circumstances. Importantly, only judges and magistrates will be able to make bail decisions for those matters.
The Government will also ensure that courts prioritise community safety in the imposition of conditions when bail is granted.
These reforms will be implemented in the first stage of the process, with a Bill to be introduced to Parliament by the end of May.
A second wave of reforms will be introduced in a Bill later this year and will cover more complex matters, including giving police more powers to remand accused people.
The reforms will clarify the interactions of the legal tests – the ‘unacceptable risk’ and ‘reverse onus’ tests – which apply when determining whether an accused person should be granted bail.
The recommendations will be implemented progressively, as many are complex and will have significant planning considerations for the courts, Victoria Police and Corrections Victoria.
Mr Coghlan found that in recent years there has been a significant growth in the number of people who have been refused bail, resulting in a substantial increase in the number of people being held on remand.
In his second report, Mr Coghlan recommends the establishment of a new Bail & Remand Court, building on the current weekend and night court models. The Government will work with relevant agencies to examine this proposal in detail.
In addition to these proposed reforms, the Government has already made significant investments consistent with Mr Coghlan’s recommendations. As part of the Victorian Budget 2017/18, the Government is delivering $25.2 million to continue and expand the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP) and the CISP Remand Outreach Pilot.
The programs ensure increased monitoring, treatment and supervision of persons on bail and remand, and target the underlying causes of offending and help reduce the rate of recidivism.
The Bail Review received 115 submissions and involved 39 consultation sessions with 34 different stakeholder groups.
For volumes one and two of the Bail Review, and the Government’s response, visit engage.vic.gov.au/bailreview
Quotes attributable to Premier Daniel Andrews
“These changes mean that it will be harder than ever before for a person in Victoria to get bail if they are accused of committing a serious violent crime.”
“The courts must also ensure community safety is given a much higher priority when considering bail applications.”
Quotes attributable to Attorney-General Martin Pakula
“Justice Coghlan rightly says that our bail system is arguably the most onerous in Australia. Our reforms will make it even stronger.
“We’re overhauling our bail system to ensure that it’s harder for people accused of serious and violent crimes to get bail.”
“I thank Mr Coghlan and the Bail Review team for all their hard work and expert advice.”