On an average day half the young people in NSW juvenile
detention haven't been sentenced to jail. They are on remand
Over the last 15 years the number of remand prisoners has more
than trebled to 2,500. The proportion of the prison population who
are there because they were denied bail has doubled to 26 per cent.
When they got to trial many weren't given a jail sentence.
Average time spent in remand is six months – the second
longest in Australia.
Under current laws, every charge carries an automatic
presumption on bail – either in favour, against or neutral
depending on the charge. NSW now has the toughest bail laws in
Australia, with presumptions against bail for charges of violence
and serious drug offences.
Many felt the balance has swung too far against bail and justice
isn't being served. The government asked the NSW Law Reform
Commission to review bail laws. It was a stinging rebuke to the
justice system. The Commission released a 408 page report
recommending there be a uniform presumption in favour of bail for
all crimes, except where there could be a danger to the community
or individual, or the charged person absconding.
The government rejected that major recommendation, saying it
will change the laws so that every bail application will be
assessed on a case-by-case risk assessment model. Those who pose a
serious risk to public safety will be presumed not to get bail.
Law leaders were disappointed. Law Society president Justin Dowd
and Bar Association vice president Philip Boulten SC said it was an
improvement but unfortunately didn't go further.
Former Law Society president and chairman of Stacks/The Law
Firm, Maurie Stack OAM, said it was disappointing the government
hadn't accepted there be a universal presumption in favour of
"It would have meant the prosecution bears the onus of
establishing it is in the public interest that a person charged
with an offence needs to be detained pending trial," Mr Stack
"Instead we continue with the discredited system that in
many cases the accused has to prove their getting bail is safe for
the community. It's particularly disappointing the impact of
the harsh bail laws on young people hasn't been addressed.
"We have record numbers being held on bail, more than other
States and for longer. This is a huge financial cost to the
community, and it has a terrible effect of those held in jail
"It's disappointing that we as a community, and
therefore the government we elect listen more to right wing radio
shock jocks than reasoned carefully considered views of respected
law people on the Law Reform Commission," Maurie Stack
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