Wednesday 22 June 2022
The Aboriginal Legal Service is shocked by the NSW Government’s attempt to push significant bail amendments through Parliament this week without adequate consultation.
These amendments appear short sighted, reactive and will likely have a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal communities, causing more Aboriginal adults and children to be imprisoned on remand and derailing progress on Closing the Gap.
“Fairness is supposed to be a cornerstone of the legal system, but here we have the Government pushing through a knee-jerk one-size-fits-all approach that will result in the imprisonment of people the changes are not intended for. It will result in the courts making decisions without the right information. And it will result in courts making decisions that impact disproportionally on Aboriginal men, women and children,” said Karly Warner, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited.
The Government’s proposed amendments to the Bail Act 2013 include a new requirement that bail must be refused following a guilty plea or conviction and before sentencing where the offender will be sentenced to full time detention unless special or exceptional circumstances can be established.
“It is unclear how a determination is to be made that an offender will be sentenced to full-time detention before sentencing occurs,” Ms Warner said.
“It is common for people to wait several months between entering a plea and being sentenced. If passed, this reform is likely to have wide-ranging impacts including delays in guilty pleas; reducing access to effective diversionary programs that provide treatment, rehabilitation and support community safety; increasing the backlog in courts; and causing further overcrowding in prisons.
“The law is a blunt tool. That’s why responsible governments take law reform seriously and consult widely and appropriately with the experts who are working in this field day-in and day-out. That is not what the NSW Government has done here,” Ms Warner said.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Aboriginal Legal Service and the community-controlled sector was not consulted on this major reform, despite the Government’s professed commitment to working in partnership on Closing the Gap. We were blindsided.”
The Aboriginal Legal Service is urging the NSW Government to commit to urgent and meaningful consultation with the Aboriginal Legal Service and the community-controlled sector.
“We have ample evidence and research showing what will work to keep communities strong and safe. The Australian Law Reform Commission’s Pathways to Justice report was tabled in 2018 and contains bail recommendations. There is no excuse for rushing into ill-advised reforms without considering the evidence and pre-existing recommendations,” Ms Warner said.
Media contact: Alyssa Robinson [email protected] 0427 346 017