The Victorian government has today announced that it will establish a Night Court for magistrates to hear bail requests over weekends and after hours as part of a major shake up of Victoria’s bail system, following the Bourke Street tragedy on Friday.
It’s our job to take the frustration, anger and the deep sadness that Victorians feel after the Bourke Street tragedy and to make sure that’s put into reform and change”, stated Daniel Andrews, the Victorian Premier.
” It’s very clear that our bail system needs a major shake-up and we are getting the best expert advice to make sure we get this right”, he stated .
A scene of the Burke Street tragedy in Melbourne CBD (photo: facebook).
Under the changes, the government will ensure magistrates are available after hours to consider bail applications for people charged with violent offences where police oppose bail. This will mean more matters are heard by magistrates, rather than bail justices.
The Government has already begun working with the Magistrates’ Court to implement a model for an after hours’ bail and remand court. The Government has also asked former Supreme Court Judge and Director of Public Prosecutions, Justice the Honourable Paul Coghlan, to provide urgent advice to the Government about additional changes to Victoria’s bail system that will best manage risk and maximise community safety.
“The Comprehensive look at Victoria’s bail system is an important first step following the Bourke Street tragedy and Justice Coghlan is a well-respected Victorian who will work with relevant authorities to provide detailed options for reform”, stated the Minister of Justice, Martin Pakula .
Justice Coghlan is expected to advise the government on a range of issues linked to the bail system including the need to strike the balance between protection of the community and the presumption of innocence, the appropriateness of the current tests of exceptional circumstances, including show cause and unacceptable risk, whether additional offences should be added to show cause or exceptional circumstances categories and the way in which other relevant circumstances (for example, a history of prior offending or offences committed while on bail), are considered. Additionally, the government is looking at changing how bail applications are conducted out of hours, including the role of bail justice.
Other steps that government has already taken including considering ways to toughen bail laws, with amendments to the Bail Act 1977 reversing the presumption of bail for people who have been charged with serious offences and have convictions for failing to appear on bail in the past five years. Some the changes that have already taken place include the doubling of sentence for people who fail to appear on bail and there is now a presumption against bail if the accused is charged with aggravated carjacking, home invasion or aggravated home invasion.
Justice Coghlan is expected to provide his advice to the government on practical legislative reform by Monday, 3 April 2017, and on any other relevant matters by Monday, 1 May 2017.