State government misses historic opportunity to repeal 'dangerous' bail laws

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties today labelled the State Government response to the Law Reform Commission report on bail a “major disappointment”.

While cautiously welcoming proposals designed to release more accused people on unconditional bail, to repeal presumptions against bail for various offences and restrictions on further bail applications for young people, NSWCCL Secretary Mr Blanks said the Government’s response only “tinkers at the edges”.

“There can be no rational basis for locking up the innocent – that’s what these bail laws will continue to do,” Mr Blanks said.

“Make no mistake - a ballooning jail population means an even bigger University of crime, and ultimately more crime on the streets as a result of the connections made inside our houses of detention.

“This Government has missed an important opportunity to repeal the notorious ‘section 22A’ restrictions to bringing further bail applications by those accused in the adult population.

“It simply does not make sense that those policy arguments that persuaded the Government to announce they would repeal them for young people would not apply equally to adults.

“These dangerous laws were among the principle drivers for the ballooning jail population – meaning lawyers cannot risk making bail applications for their clients at early stages of them being remanded for fear of having only one shot at it,” Mr Blanks said.

Mr Blanks cited statistics which show that suicide rates among the remand population account for 36 per cent of the total in the system.

Mr Blanks further noted:

  • Prisoners on remand now make up 47.3 per cent of the jail population – and those denied bail make up approximately 25 per cent;
  • Some 56 per cent are ultimately acquitted or released without charge;
  • It now costs $1.2 billion a year to run our adult prisons.

“This Government must re-state its commitment to the presumption of innocence and to listening to genuine experts in this area,” Mr Blanks said.

“The onus is on this Government to act on the report by the Law Reform Commission and to immediately bring about sensible and humane reform in this area,” Mr Blanks said.

CONTACT: Stephen Blanks 0414 448 654