Victoria Legal Aid

Reforming bail laws for a better, fairer justice system

Bail reform will make a real difference to the lives of everyday people who come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Monday 14 August 2023 11:58pm

We welcome changes to Victoria’s bail laws announced today.

‘Reforming the Bail ActExternal Link is critical to creating a criminal justice system that is fairer and better responds to the circumstances which bring people into the justice system,’ said Dan Nicholson, Executive Director, Criminal Law.

‘We need to see changes that significantly reduce the number of people on remand and see bail laws proportionately targeted to risk.’

Through our work in courts across the state every day, we continue to see the discriminatory and disproportionate harms caused by the current bail laws, particularly on First Nations women and other marginalised people.

‘We consistently see people spend time on remand for offences they wouldn’t normally get jail time for if convicted, like stealing soft drink,’ Dan said.

’This disrupts their life, employment, housing, relationships with family and friends – which are vital to people living healthy and fulfilling lives.

‘Even a short period in prison is long enough to disconnect people from their community in damaging ways and it isn’t long enough for you to receive meaningful rehabilitation or reintegration support.

‘The knock-on effects can have significant implications and last a very long time.

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

While these changes represent progress, further reforms to bail and the criminal justice system, and changes in police practice, are needed to address the harms we see every day.

We join with our partners and colleagues in Aboriginal legal services, the broader legal assistance sector and legal experts in calling for continued meaningful reform.

The best way to achieve these outcomes, and to achieve the change that Veronica Nelson’s family is calling for, is to implement Poccum’s lawExternal Link , including 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).

It is crucial the reforms translate into change on the ground and that we monitor their impact so that the harms of the current bail laws are prevented in the future.

We are continuing to work closely with the government and others in the legal sector to support further reform and effective implementation of change, based on our practice experience.

Media enquiries

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Reviewed 15 August 2023