new bail laws - presumption of innocence is the victim

Thursday, 3 June 2004 NSWCCL media release: 1/2004


New bail laws rushed through the NSW Parliament today undermine the presumption of innocence and are another example of how governments are using the War on Terror to erode civil liberties in Australia. 

The NSW Parliament today rushed through legislation to make it easier for the federal government to keep people charged with terrorist offences behind bars. The new law introduces a presumption against bail in terrorist offences. It is expected to come into force tomorrow. 

The new bail laws mean that, rather than the Crown having to argue why a person should not be granted bail, anyone charged with a federal terrorist offence will have to argue before a Magistrate why they should be granted bail. 

This goes against the presumption of innocence. In our society everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. This move introduces a presumption of guilt when it comes people accused of terrorist offences - long before they have their day in court. 

The legislation has been rushed through Parliament to make it easier for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions when he appeals the release of Bilal Khazal on bail yesterday. The changes to the bail laws will be retrospective, so the DPP will not have to argue that Mr Khazal should be locked up. Instead, Mr Khazal will have to convince the court that he should remain at liberty. 

If Mr Khazal loses the appeal, then he will probably be heading off to the 'Supermax' High Risk Management Unit at Goulburn Gaol. That is where most of those charged with terrorist offences are being held on remand - isolated from their families and legal teams in Sydney. This will make it difficult for Mr Khazal to prepare his defence. 

The new law is bad law. Because it is retrospective it is open to Constitutional challenge. The legislation is also likely to be unconstitutional because it treats federal terrorist suspects in NSW differently from anywhere else in Australia. Though federal Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock has indicated that he will pass similar legislation in the federal Parliament. 

CCL is very concerned that this legislation will be used to intimidate and terrorise the Muslim community in NSW. 

This is another example of governments using the War on Terror to undermine and erode our civil liberties. 

For further information contact: 
Cameron Murphy, NSWCCL President: 0411 769 769