Bodgy bail reforms contribute to record increases in prison population

In a report released today BOCSAR have shown failure of the 2013 and 2014 bail amendments to arrest the continued unparalleled growth of the NSW prison population.

BOCSAR describes one impact of the reforms as increasing the proportion of bail eligible defendants refused bail. From November 2010 this goes from being around 25% of those eligible for bail being removed, to a peak around March 2016 of over 35% of those eligible for bail being refused.

The trend line from February 2011 to May 2016 shows an increase from around 1,000 people refused bail at their first court appearance per month, to around 1,340 or a more than 30 percent increase.

Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“At a time when crime rates in NSW continue to fall, the number of people in our prisons continues to rise.

“It’s clear that there is something very wrong with the Baird Government’s approach to justice, and nowhere is this more apparent than bail.

“Almost 10% of the people that the law says are eligible for bail, who would previously have been released on bail, are now being refused.

“It should concern all of us that more people are being held on remand, despite not having been tried for the offence they have been charged with.

“The refusal to release a person on bail is a serious infringement of their right to liberty and goes to the presumption of innocence; it should be reserved for only the most serious cases where the safety of the community is substantially at risk.

“The increased remand population is also a result of the ever longer times it takes for matters to come to trial as courts continue to be under resourced while also having to deal with the legal ramifications of decades of law and order auctions by the major parties.

“It is seriously concerning that a complete overhaul of the Bail Act has done nothing to address the continued increase in bail refusals and the size of the remand population.

“At a time when more than 30% of the people in our prisons are being held on remand it’s clear that something needs to be done to fix bail,” Mr Shoebridge said.

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