REMAND DEMAND: New Bail Act tipped to spark rush on courts for reviews

THE new Bail Act that comes into force in NSW today is expected to add to an already heavy workload in the state’s courts, as prisoners on remand seek a review of their status.

A glut of bail applications has been forecast as prisoners become aware of the potentially less onerous conditions they must now meet.

Legal aid solicitor Jim Allen made reference to the new act in Albury Local Court yesterday morning, foreshadowing an application in two weeks on behalf of a client who had previously had a bail application refused when charged with firearms offences.

The prison population in NSW was a record 10,917 in March, with many prisoners having been refused bail because of the charges they face or their criminal history.

The state’s new Attorney-General, Brad Hazzard, is expected to make an announcement this morning about the new act.

Both police and judicial officers have been attempting to become conversant with the implications of the new legislation.

The new Bail Act was foreshadowed in November 2012 and supported by then premier Barry O’Farrell, attorney-general Greg Smith and Police Minister Michael Gallagher.

It followed a Law Reform Commission report from the chairman Justice James Wood QC, who said the new act would simplify the law and ensure bail outcomes reflected the circumstances of the accused and the alleged offence.

The Bail Act was enacted 34 years earlier with the introduction since of 85 amendments and more than 200 changes before the review two years ago.

Chief Supt Tony Trichter, the commander of the police prosecutions, said it was a modernisation of state bail laws which police had been seeking for about five years.

When announcing the new act as premier, Mr O’Farrell said: “The new, simpler bail law will be applied consistently by police bail sergeants, magistrates and judges.”

“This means police and legal resources can be focused on catching and prosecuting criminals.”

Previously bail decisions had been made based on the offence a person had been charged with, rather than the risk posed to the community.

Police and the courts will now have to consider whether someone poses an unacceptable risk by endangering community safety, interfering with witnesses or is likely to commit a serious offence.

The new act replaces the previous system of presumptions for or against bail with a risk management approach.