Bail reform will make criminal justice system fairer

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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