Victoria Legal Aid

A fairer and more effective justice system through meaningful bail reform

By fulfilling its commitment to reform bail laws, the Victorian government can create a fairer and more effective criminal justice system for the community.

Monday 27 March 2023 11:30pm

We welcome the Victorian government’s commitment to reforming the state’s bail laws.

‘This presents an opportunity to create a criminal justice system which is fairer, reduces the number of unsentenced people in custody, and reduces reoffending by supporting people to address the issues in their lives which have brought them before court,’ said Dan Nicholson, Executive Director, Criminal Law.

We join with our partners and colleagues in Aboriginal legal services and the broader legal assistance sector in calling for meaningful changes to be made.

‘Through our practice experience we consistently see people, including children, spending time on remand for minor offences, like stealing a soft drink, which are unlikely to result in a prison sentence,’ said Mr Nicholson.

‘We welcome the government’s acknowledgement that there are better ways to respond to these circumstances which bring people into the justice system.’

The devastating impact of the current laws was highlighted during the coronial inquest into the death in custody of Gunditjmara, Dja Dja Wurrung, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman Veronica Nelson.

‘As Coroner McGregor identified, the current laws discriminate against Aboriginal people and they are incompatible with Victoria’s human rights charter,’ said Mr Nicholson.

‘It is critical that the government’s reforms address the disproportionate impact that bail laws have on First Nations people, women, children and marginalised Victorians.

‘The changes should also significantly reduce the proportion of people in custody who are on remand, rather than serving a prison sentence, and properly target our bail laws towards risk.’

The best way to achieve these outcomes, and to achieve the change that Ms Nelson’s family is calling for, is to:

  1. remove the presumption against bail
  2. grant access to bail unless the prosecution shows that there is a specific and immediate risk to the safety of another person, a serious risk of interfering with a witness, or a demonstrable risk that the person will flee the jurisdiction
  3. ensure that a person cannot be remanded for an offence that is unlikely to result in a sentence of imprisonment
  4. remove all bail offences (committing an indictable offence while on bail, breaching bail conditions and failure to answer bail).

We are continuing to work closely with the government and others in the legal sector to support meaningful change, based on our experience of the current laws.

Media enquiries

Please contact Naomi Woodley, Manager, Media, Communications and Engagement at or 0409 281 304.

Reviewed 27 March 2023