Bail Amendment Bill 2014
Letter to Acting Director Legal Polic, NT Department of Attorney-General and Justice
The Law Society Northern Territory (the Society) thanks you for your letter dated 18 August 2014 and welcomes the opportunity to make a submission on the Bail Amendment Bill 2014 (the Bill).
The Society reiterates the comments made in its initial submission, dated 28 March 2013, that is, we support a uniform presumption in favour of bail. The Society submits any derogation from this fundamental principle should only occur where it is established to be appropriate. Broad or expansive presumptions against bail undermine the fundamental principles of the justice system.
The Society is concerned that the Bill expands the range of offences which attract a presumption against bail. The result will be even more people being held on remand for lengthy periods whilst awaiting trial. As it stands, the Australian Bureau of Statistics report for the June quarter 2014 showed the Northern Territory has the highest rate of unsentenced persons in custody. The Society recommends that a cost benefit analysis be undertaken by way of a publically available Regulatory Impact Statement. People of the Territory should know the costs that will flow from these reforms.
The Society supports evidence based law reform. The Discussion Draft lacks adequate discussion around the policy reasons for making the suggested amendments. We would also be interested to see the statistical evidence behind increasing the time limit from five to 10 years pursuant to s.7A(1)(e). Bail is not a reward for good behavior, it is a conditional liberty enjoyed until alleged offenders are proven guilty. That liberty is one of the foundations of our criminal law and justice system.
The Society is concerned that many of the issues raised in our letter of 28 March 2013 have not been addressed in this Consultation Draft of the Bill. Further, the Society supported the submissions made at the time by North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency and the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service and we are disappointed that many of the issues raised in those submissions have also been disregarded. The Society urges the Department to take into account the issues raised in those submission, prior to finalising the draft amendments.
The Society welcomes the additions made to s.24(1)(b) of the Bill allowing the court to consider cognitive an mental impairment, cultural issues and whether the person is a youth, when making a determination to grant bail.
The Society does not support the unsubstantiated increase in the Penalty Units (PU) as outlined in the Bill. The Discussion Draft does not provide any examples of similar offences with such high monetary values. The Society considers the increases from 17 PU to 200 PU and from 25 PU to 300 PU to be excessive and without rational foundation.
In summary, the Bill is not supported because:
- There is no evidence that it will make people safer;
- It undermines fundamental principles of justice; and
- It lacks any evidentiary basis.
Territorians ought not to be exposed to increased costs, undermining of bail processes without adequate or any evidence that these reforms are warranted, fully costed and are likely to result in increased safety for Territorians.
Due to the restriction on a person?s liberty, the Society would like to see any proposed amendments made to the Bail Act subject to a review within say 12 months of operation so as to assess the impacts the amendments may have.