The Bail Amendment Bill has just been reported back from select committee. I am a supporter of it, and think it will save lives. Akshay Chand should never have been able to get bail, and sadly he killed Christie Marceau.
With bail it is a balancing act. If everyone accused of a crime was refused bail, then many innocent people would be spending lengthy spells in jail. But likewise if all those arrested automatically got bail, then the number of people killed, raped and beaten by those on bail would be significant. Once you know you are facing a trial and eventual jail on some charges, some are motivated to offend even more as it may not lead to an increased sentence.
In the last five years 46 people on bail were found guilty of murder or homicide.
Now what is the main provision of the bill:
- remove the strong presumption in favour of bail for defendants aged 17 to 19, if they had previously been sentenced to imprisonment.
This is well overdue. Half of young defendants who had served a previous prison sentence (think what you must have done to have already had a prison sentence by this age) go on to offend while on bail. Removing the strong presumption to bail means they can be judged on the merits on the risk.
But read the minority reports from Labour and Greens.
I can’t even work out what Labour’s position is on this key provision. They repeat what the provision does, but do not state their view on it. As it is a minority report, I think they are against it – but seriously who could tell? I guess they are trying to have it both ways.
The Greens are more clear cut. They support keeping the current law which sees 18 and 19 year olds released on bail despite extensive previous offending and a 50% reoffending rate while on bail.