Thursday, 9 June 2016

Proposed changes to Bail Act unfair, unbalanced, and inequitable

The President of the ACT Law Society, Martin Hockridge, and the President of the ACT Bar Association, Ken Archer, today criticised the ACT Government’s proposal to introduce a new bail review power for the Director of Public Prosecutions as disgraceful.

“The Government’s proposed changes to the Bail Act are outrageous,” said Mr Hockridge. “If the prosecution’s strongest case in opposition to bail is unsuccessful, and the court, on hearing all arguments, grants bail, that person should be released. It is hard to understand how it is somehow okay to allow the prosecution without an order of a Court to keep an accused person incarcerated for up to five days longer. This is unacceptable from a Government that claims to prize human rights.”

“If the DPP is unhappy with a grant of bail there already exists a process for appealing that decision in the Supreme Court,” said Mr Archer. “The DPP currently has the capacity to apply for a review of a bail decision where there has been a change in circumstances, fresh evidence, or new information relevant to the grant of bail. That appeal can be expedited in appropriate cases.

“This amendment hands to the DPP the power to gaol a person by simply saying there is to be an appeal — even if that appeal does not go ahead. The reach of the legislation is far wider than in other jurisdictions. The public safety concerns so often used to justify the enactment of such draconian provisions generally do not arise in the offences affected by this proposal. The power to keep someone goaled will be routinely exercisable by junior prosecutors operating under DPP-issued ‘guidelines’ that do little to address the imbalance of the proposals. The scheme is not consistent with the Human Rights Act.

“The Government has not demonstrated any justification for their proposed changes,” said Mr Hockridge. “The logical inference from the proposal is that the Government lacks confidence in the Courts to appropriately manage bail applications.”

For further information contact:
Mr Martin Hockridge, President, ACT Law Society, M 0405 064 541
Mr Ken Archer, President, ACT Bar Association, T (02) 6230 6912