Tuesday 23 March 2021, 4:00 pm
The Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT welcomes research released today by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research showing police are more likely to refuse bail for Aboriginal defendants than non-Aboriginal defendants.
“This reflects our concerns of systemic racism within NSW Police meaning Aboriginal people are being locked up simply because they are Aboriginal,” said Sarah Crellin, Principal Solicitor (Crime Practice) at the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT (ALS).
“These findings are disappointing but not surprising. We welcome the data being out for all to see.”
The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) report found among people on remand, 25% of adults and 45% of young people are Aboriginal.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for 3.4% of the NSW population.
“Given the trauma that Aboriginal people and their families suffer when in prison, and the unacceptably high number of Aboriginal deaths in custody, it should be an urgent priority to reduce the number of Aboriginal people in NSW prisons. Yet the facts show that Aboriginal people are being disproportionately locked up without being sentenced of a crime,” Ms Crellin said.
BOCSAR has foreshadowed further research into the prevalence of Aboriginal people being denied bail.
“While knowledge is always a good thing, we need much more than research – we need action,” Ms Crellin said.
The ALS is calling for Aboriginality to be considered as a standalone provision within the NSW Bail Act, meaning that police and magistrates would be called upon to consider unique factors pertaining to a person’s Aboriginality before making bail decisions.
The organisation is also calling for the introduction of a separate, purpose-built Bail Act for children and young people.
The ALS is currently working with NSW Police to ensure appropriate bail conditions are imposed on children and young people through a joint project with Just Reinvest NSW and the ALS at Moree and Mt Druitt.
A snapshot study conducted recently by the ALS produced similar findings to the BOCSAR report, showing that Aboriginal young people had high rates of short-term remand. This was as a result of bail being refused by police, then granted by the courts in the first court appearance.
“Once you place a child in jail, they are much more likely to return as an adult. We should be aiming to divert young people away from the criminal justice system,” Ms Crellin said.
Media contact: Alyssa Robinson – [email protected] / 0427 346 017
The BOCSAR media release can be found here: https://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Pages/bocsar_media_releases/2021/mr-What-factors-influence-police-and-court-bail-decisions-CJB236.aspx
The ALS snapshot study of short-term remand is here: https://www.alsnswact.org.au/short_term_remand_snapshot