Victoria's bail system23 January 2017
The Victorian Government has today announced that it will establish a Night Court for magistrates to hear bail requests over weekends and after hours as part of a major shake up of Victoria’s bail system, following the Bourke Street tragedy on Friday.
Under the changes, the Government will ensure magistrates are available after hours to consider bail applications for people charged with violent offences where police oppose bail. This will mean more matters are heard by magistrates, rather than bail justices.
The Government has already begun working with the Magistrates’ Court to implement a model for an after hours’ bail and remand court. The Government has also asked former Supreme Court Judge and Director of Public Prosecutions, Justice the Honourable Paul Coghlan, to provide urgent advice to the Government about additional changes to Victoria’s bail system that will best manage risk and maximise community safety.
In providing this advice, Justice Coghlan will consider a range of matters, including:
- how the necessary balance between protection of the community and the presumption of innocence should be best reflected in the Bail Act 1977
- the appropriateness of the current tests of exceptional circumstances, show cause and unacceptable risk
- whether additional offences should be added to show cause or exceptional circumstances categories
- the way in which other relevant circumstances (for example, a history of prior offending or offences committed while on bail), are considered
- the conduct of bail applications out of hours, including the role of bail justices.
The Victorian Government has already taken steps to toughen bail laws, with amendments to the Bail Act 1977 reversing the presumption of bail for people who have been charged with serious offences and have convictions for failing to appear on bail in the past five years.
The changes also doubled the sentence for people who fail to appear on bail and there is now a presumption against bail if the accused is charged with aggravated carjacking, home invasion or aggravated home invasion.
Justice Coghlan will provide his advice on practical legislative reform by Monday, 3 April 2017, and on any other relevant matters by Monday, 1 May 2017.