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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

‘Exceptional circumstances’ bail review power already exercised

The President of the ACT Law Society, Sarah Avery, today expressed her dismay at the use of the bail review power just one day after it commenced operation.

"The Law Society has consistently voiced its strong opposition to the introduction of the bail review power," said Ms Avery. "It is a bad piece of legislation for many reasons. Most significantly, it is inappropriate that a DPP prosecutor can seek a review of a bail decision (on the basis they disagree with that decision) in circumstances where a court has just heard all available evidence and granted bail.

"The Society was assured that the power would be exercised sparingly and only in exceptional circumstances. Yet it was used earlier today, having only been in operation since yesterday.

"We understand that during today's oral application by the DPP to use the bail review power, no reference was made as to what 'exceptional circumstances' or 'public interest factors' caused the prosecutor to make the application in the case.

"We also understand that there was some confusion in the court about what was to happen to the defendant once the oral application was made. He was ultimately detained in the court cells for a period of time, until the DPP decided not to proceed with the application, and he was released. We understand that he was in custody for more than two hours after originally being granted bail by the Magistrate.

"There also appears to be no process in place for informing a defendant's lawyers if the DPP decides not to proceed with the application.

"Since the beginning of this process, we have opposed this law, and we have continued to request that the DPP publish their guidelines for the use of this power to ensure transparency. This commitment was made by then Attorney-General, Mr Simon Corbell, when the legislation was introduced, and has yet to be followed through.

"This power has just come into force. We are gravely concerned by the lack of appreciation shown for the exceptional nature of the power that has been given to the DPP."

For further information contact:
Ms Sarah Avery, President, ACT Law Society, T 02 6274 0300