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Aboriginal Legal Service welcomes internal Labor pressure against Premier's efforts to put more children in jail

MEDIA RELEASE

Friday 22 March 2024

NSW Labor lawyers and senior leaders, including Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne are furious over the new laws that will put more children in jail.

"The Aboriginal Legal Service welcomes the advocacy of Labor lawyers who know these new laws will be a disaster for regional NSW and for the Labor Party. This internal opposition shows that while the Bill has passed, the fight to rectify these dangerous laws is far from over," says Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT CEO Karly Warner.

In an open letter to the State Parliamentary Labor Party, New South Wales Society of Labor Lawyers say the Bail and Crimes Amendment Bill is "not fit for purpose" and "is a band-aid solution, likely to lead to the incarceration of particularly vulnerable groups in our society, which will further entrench criminality in regional communities and strain our criminal justice and prison system."

The full open letter is below and also linked here: https://assets.nationbuilder.com/nswlaborlawyers/pages/1394/attachments/original/1711003919/240321_Open_Letter_to_SPLP_re_Bail_Amendments.pdf?1711003919 

 

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Media contact: Catalina Casar, [email protected], 0421 547 759


 

21 March 2024

State Parliamentary Labor Party 

Parliament of New South Wales 

Macquarie Street Sydney NSW 2000 

By email 

Dear Member,

Open Letter regarding SPLP Bail Law Amendments 

We refer to the Bail and Crimes Amendment Bill 2024 (the Bill) which requires a bail authority to have a high degree of confidence that a young person will not commit a serious indictable offence prior to granting bail.  

We do not seek to repeat comments made by many legal organisations in the past week. However, we note if the intention of the State Parliamentary Party (SPLP) was to reduce crime in regional communities, the present reforms are not fit for purpose. The effect of the new reforms will be to detain young people en masse given the unprecedented high bar for granting bail. It is a band-aid solution, likely to lead to the incarceration of particularly vulnerable groups in our society, which will further entrench criminality in regional communities and strain our criminal justice and prison system. While the reforms come with promises of safer communities, the effect will be a short-term sugar hit for regional communities at the expense of long-term safety. This Bill represents a conflict between best intentions, which we know the SPLP has for regional communities, and practical outcomes, which will not be achieved by this proposed solution.  

Article 37(b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Australia has ratified, provides:  

No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. 

It is difficult for the Society to see how that principle, which is binding on all Australian legislatures under international law, is being respected when this Bill is likely to lead to a child being more likely to be imprisoned on remand than an adult in the same circumstances. 

Additionally, the Society notes recent comments that the SPLP does not support a longrunning campaign to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New South Wales. This new position is directly contrary to the support in principle position that the NSW Labor Conference extended to the raise the age campaign at the 2022 Annual Conference. It is not clear on what basis the SPLP seeks to diverge from an adopted conference position but given the significant divergence it should be explained to members why the SPLP is not complying with conference positions. 

On behalf of its members, the Society urges the SPLP to reconsider the Bill and direct attention to measures that will actually reduce the incidence of criminality in regional communities in the long term, such as the commendable resources given to Moree and regional crime initiatives in the last week. The present Bill is, in our view, likely to only increase criminality and strain regional criminal justice systems in the long term at little benefit to regional communities.  

Please contact the Society at [email protected] if you would like to discuss.

Yours faithfully,  

NSW Society of Labor Lawyers

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