Terms of Reference Released for Victorian Bail Review

Tuesday 21 February 2017 @ 1.27 p.m. | Crime | Legal Research

As a follow up to our previous article, the Victorian Government has on 14 February 2017 released the terms of reference for the review into Bail laws responding to the recent tragedy in Melbourne's Bourke Street, carried out by an alleged offender who was on bail at the time of the offence, and the public outrage it sparked. Additionally, the ACT has also announced a review of Bail laws in response to the same attack.

Background to the Victorian Government Response

As stated in our previous article, the Victorian Government, through the Premier, has provided two key responses to the bail aspect of the public reaction over the tragedy. The first response was to announce that magistrates, rather than voluntary bail justices, will be "exclusively deployed" to hear bail applications where they relate to serious matters.  The second response by the Premier was to direct that the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Paul Coghlan, conduct a  review of Victoria’s bail system.

Terms of Reference to Review

The review into Victoria’s bail system will consider seven specific questions. It will focus on legislative and practical reforms to manage risk and maximise community safety.

  1. How the necessary balance between protection of the community and the presumption of innocence should be best reflected in section 4 of the Bail Act 1977;
  2. The appropriateness of the current tests of exceptional circumstances, show cause and unacceptable risk, and an examination of the offences to which those tests apply;
  3. Whether additional offences should be added to the list of offences which place an accused person into the show cause or exceptional circumstances categories;
  4. The way in which other relevant circumstances (for example, a history of prior offending or offences committed while on bail), are considered in assessing whether an accused person should be granted bail;
  5. Whether information available for consideration by decision-makers in the bail system is sufficient to properly consider and assess the risks that are posed by accused persons, including those with complex risks, needs and case histories;
  6. The conduct of bail applications out of hours including the role of Bail Justices; and
  7. Whether, in relation to out of hours applications, different rules are required for different types of offences.

The review is being conducted by the Hon Paul Coghlan QC and he will provide his advice to the government on legislative reform by Monday 3 April 2017, and on any other relevant matters by Monday 1 May 2017.

Public Submissions to the review close on 28 February 2017.

ACT Government Bail Review

According to the ABC News, the ACT Liberal Opposition is also calling for an urgent review of the Territory's bail laws following the Bourke Street tragedy.

ACT shadow attorney-general Jeremy Hanson said the Canberra community also needed assurance their legal system was safe:

"Too many crimes were committed by those on bail, and too many have left the community wondering what is happening with our system."

The Liberals formally called for the review during the first sitting of the Legislative Assembly for the year on 14 February 2017 but the Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay's office has released a statement confirming the Labor Government will not be supporting the Liberal's motion.

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