The new bail amendments introduced in 2022 have altered the tests required to avoid remand while awaiting trial. Recent statistics released by BOSCAR outline the massive rise in remandees occupying the prison population. Justice Action spoke with ABC TV News to express concern about this issue.
In December 2019, remandees made up 34% of the adult prison population. But by December 2023, remandees made up 42% of the adult prison population. This should be a statistic slowly decreasing not increasing, considering in December 2023 there was a drop in the amount of adults in custody.
The Guardian has outlined that the amendment is believed to be triggered by the Daily Telegraph’s campaign against the 2013 Bail Laws as it led to a man charged for sexually assaulting children being granted bail. The rush in passing the law has caused a significant issue as there was a lack of input received from individuals who apply the law such as lawyers, barristers and judges. On average, a bill can take from a couple weeks to months to pass. The bail amendment only took two days. Barrister Stephan Lawrence believes it will discourage “early and appropriate pleas of guilty”, thus placing more pressure on the court system. This will have a detrimental effect and can be seen to do so with each remandee now spending an average of 90 days on remand as outlined by Jackie Fitzgerald, the Executive Director of BOSCAR.
When considering the effects on minorities in Australian society, we turn to the Aboriginal Legal Service who expressed they believe it will interfere with the progress being made with the Close the Gap campaign. Karly Warner, the CEO of Aboriginal Legal Services (NSW/ACT) Limited mentioned how Indigenous people may be disproportionately affected by this “one size fits all” approach to bail.
The increase in remandees suggests our basic presumption of innocence is diminishing. The bail amendments being triggered by one individual has affected the daily life of many innocent people and left them to experience our harshest form of punishment for up to 90 days. To uproot an individual’s life in such a manner is incredibly unjust. We believe the bail amendment should be withdrawn and replaced with community based measures such as electronic monitoring devices or placing individuals in bail accommodation.