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Victoria’s bail system needs more funding and improved support services to protect the community

Victoria’s bail system needs more funding and improved support services to protect the community

By LIV Media

Courts Criminal Procedure Justice Punishment Sentencing 

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Victoria’s bail system needs additional funding, improved support services and should be simplified to maximise community safety and uphold the rights of accused people, the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) said in its submission to Victoria’s bail system review.

The LIV believes Victoria’s bail system can be improved to reflect the needs of a modern society and protect the rights of the community and alleged offenders in the system.

The LIV wants bail decision makers to be provided with adequate training to ensure that unsafe people are not released back into the community and additional support services to be introduced for greater accountability in the bail system.

Following the Bourke Street tragedy, LIV president Belinda Wilson convened a special LIV Bail Review Taskforce, including experts from the criminal justice system and general legal profession, to respond to the bail system review led by the Honourable Paul Coghlan QC.

The LIV has recommended that bail justices be retained, saying they are a valuable part of the criminal justice landscape that have helped take pressure off police and an overloaded court system.

Ms Wilson said no person should be released on bail into the general population without oversight by a properly funded and resourced bail support program. "Any decision regarding bail has to balance the need for community safety with the rights of the accused and a presumption of innocence.

"We understand that people who are presumed to be a risk to the community should be held in custody, but we acknowledge that prisons are being clogged up with too many vulnerable people on remand for offences that pose no risk to public safety."

The LIV considers that the vulnerability of an accused person and the likelihood the person will be imprisoned for their alleged criminal behaviour needs to be added to the existing list of factors that bail decision makers take into account when conducting a risk assessment.

“Bail decision makers should be required to take into account any special vulnerability or needs an accused person has because of youth, Indigenous heritage, homelessness or due to a cognitive or mental impairment,” Ms Wilson said.

"People released on bail without supervision put the community at risk and make it difficult for an accused offender to successfully complete their bail.

"Bail support programs, including youth support services, have been shown to improve community safety and reduce costs – but they need to be properly funded," Ms Wilson said.

Some of the key recommendations from the LIV Bail Review Taskforce include:

  • the bail justice system should be maintained, and bail justices be provided with additional training and support to a standard of Certificate IV Diploma in Bail
  • the bail support and other court-based support services should get greater funding to allow them to provide services to more people
  • the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP) should get extra funding to expand into the County Court and ensure more serious offenders complete their bail successfully, and protect the community at the same time
  • information should be provided to police, bail justices and magistrates about the challenges facing people from vulnerable communities. This information should be developed by the Judicial College of Victoria
  • police diversion programs should be expanded to assist in connecting low-level offenders with support while at the same time keeping them away from the bail system
  • if Night Courts are to continue, extra safeguards should be put in place so that a person remanded before a Night Court must re-appear before a normal court the next day
  • funding should be available for court-based bail support services during the hours that the Night Court is sitting.

Contact

Karin Derkley, LIV Media Advisor 

T: 03 9607 9389
M: 0413 014 902 
E: media@liv.asn.au

 


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