Bail Amendment (Stage Two) Bill 2017

Written on the 22 February 2018


22 February 2018

COUNCIL 

Second reading 

GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB- Southern Metropolitan)

 

I am pleased to be able to rise and speak this morning on this important bill, the Bail Amendment (Stage Two) Bill 2017. As has been highlighted by Mr Rich-Phillips, this is the second tranche of some bail reforms that the government is undertaking in relation to some serious issues that this state is facing. As we know, there have been enormous amounts of concern from the community and others around the increasing crime that has occurred in this state over recent times. It is no surprise that people are concerned when the Andrews government has taken a fairly soft approach to the issues at hand.

It was a couple of weeks ago that many people from the Parliament attended the Bourke Street memorial for that horrendous carnage that occurred during that Friday lunchtime just over 12 months ago when innocent Victorians and others men, women and children were mowed down in that dreadful event. I was reflecting on that, and I want to take note because there were so many people involved, as we know not only the first responders that were there but Victorians who stood by and provided assistance and great care to those who were affected on that day. I refer to a previous article in one of the papers where it notes the heroic efforts of Lou the cabbie. Henry Dow, I think, was the gentleman who had posted a comment on his Facebook page that the article refers to. The article says:

Lou had held Henry's shaking hands and told him to be strong for a woman who was badly hurt.

'Administering first aid with me, under that skinny little tree, is a man named Lou: he is everything great and courageous you have seen, heard or read, rolled into one authentically humble bloke', Henry wrote.

I think that just demonstrates the nature of what occurred on that day when other Victorians came to give aid.

Of course we are talking about this bill because of the Coghlan review. The explanatory memorandum of the bill states that:

Following the Bourke Street tragedy on 20 January 2017, the Government asked former Supreme Court Judge and Director of Public Prosecutions, the Hon. Paul Coghlan, QC, to urgently review Victoria's bail system. Mr Coghlan provided his advice on legislative reform in his first report on 3 April 2017 and on other relevant matters in a second report on 1 May 2017.

Now, that is some months ago, and those recommendations, which a lot of this bill highlights and speaks to, have been well-known. That is why Mr Rich-Phillips proposes moving his amendment to bring forward the commencement date not 1 July, as the government proposes, but 30 March 2018 because these are urgent reforms that need to be undertaken. I note that Mr Mulino in his contribution said, 'Well, we don't want to rush this'. Well, you have not been rushing it, clearly. You have been stagnating for years. Since your election in 2014 we have seen what has occurred. We have seen the rolling back of juvenile bail the reforms that were undertaken in the coalition term and from there we have had youth crime out of control and repeat offenders on a cycle that is doing them no good at all. They are being held on remand for extraordinary periods of time. The rolling back of that bail reform has sent the wrong message to some of these young offenders who do have to understand the consequences of their crimes. Some of them, sadly, are extremely serious.

The other occurrence we have seen in Victoria is the changing nature of criminal offences in the last few years. Of course I am referring to the carjackings and the home invasions that have literally been occurring across our suburbs and communities, not just in isolated areas but in large parts of Melbourne and in outer areas in regional Victoria as well. I note that the government has got no intention of addressing those issues in terms of the mess that youth justice is in, as we have seen, with over 30 riots. We have had a mass escape the greatest escape from our youth justice facilities in this state. I hear the minister over there groaning about this, but these are the facts, and I think she is the one held responsible

Ms Mikakos You keep changing the number of riots every week. You just make it up. Every week it is a different number.

Ms CROZIER Over 30 riots, Ms Mikakos. We have seen Parkville trashed and the government not being able to provide proper advice.

Ms Mikakos interjected.

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Ramsay) Ms Mikakos, through the Chair, thank you.

Ms CROZIER Ms Mikakos knows she has failed the system. She has failed those who are in the system. These young people deserve to have some rehabilitation and support, yet they are still running amok and they are still causing incidents within youth justice facilities and assaulting staff. They are not being addressed properly, and we have got this ongoing crisis in youth justice that she is still determined to deny. But nevertheless, I think it is evident for all Victorians to see and they do see it. They know what is going on. It is happening within their communities constantly, and I think that is why the government has been on the back foot for the last three years, and Mr Andrews, the Premier, I am sure is most displeased with the way this has been handled by the minister.

So that is why we have been very firm in terms of the announcements that we have made and made quite some time ago, I might add in terms of having a plan to fix the bail system, because again we see this government is too slow to act. The plan is around the introduction of presumption of remand for those charged with violent offences. That is the community expectation. They do not expect people of, quite frankly, any age, if they are committing violent attacks and we have seen young offenders with machetes or guns smashing their way through legitimate businesses not being held to account. What message is that sending? What it is doing is giving the victims no voice and no assurance that this government cares for them or that it is serious about reform.

The second principle that the Liberals and The Nationals have announced, as I have referred to, in terms of bail reform is to introduce the 'One strike and you're out' policy for anyone breaching bail. Again, we believe that if you are given a chance, if the community does give you that chance, you are expected to abide by the rules. The community is sick and tired of the breaching of bail that has occurred where serious crimes are repeated or conducted again. The third principle will be the reinstatement of the offence of breaching bail by young offenders or juvenile offenders, which was repealed by this government in 2016.

This bail amendment bill, as I said, has taken on a number of issues. It does talk about exceptional circumstances, but it also says and I want to just mention a couple of clauses in the remaining time that I have that only a court may grant bail to a person who is accused of a relevant schedule 2 offence who is already on two or more bail undertakings, but this does not apply to children, Aboriginal persons or vulnerable adults. I note the explanatory memorandum does talk about vulnerable adults, I think, with cognitive impairment, and clause 4 inserts a new definition of the term to mean a person who is:

18 years of age or more and has a cognitive, physical or mental health impairment that causes the person to have difficulty in

(a)    understanding their rights; or

(b)   making a decision; or

(c)    communicating a decision.

It is self-explanatory in relation to why that definition is in the bill. People with those impairments of course need to have some consideration, and I do not think anybody is disputing that fact. I am concerned, though, I have to say, that a certain subsection of our community has been highlighted. I do not want this to be in any way inflammatory at all the government has accused us of being racists and xenophobes and they have made ridiculous remarks about race baiting; it is just ridiculous but what this bill does do and what I am concerned about is it highlights people on the basis of their race. Where will this go? Is the next stage going to be that their ethnicity is brought into question? We are all Victorians who need to abide by the law; it does not matter who you are. As I said, certain considerations need to be taken into account if you have got an impairment to your judgement, but to be singled out and have some exemption based on that is a concern of mine. I think that needs to be monitored very carefully, and I am hoping the government will do that because of how they have explained that in this bill.

I do note that the bill also speaks about a number of other areas in relation to family violence orders that need to be taken into consideration when empowering police to make those decisions. Those orders need to be adhered to and looked at. It comes into new section 3AAA(f), which says:

whether there is in force

(i)    a family violence intervention order made against the accused; or

(ii)   a family violence safety notice issued against the accused; or

(iii)  a recognised DVO made against the accused

Earlier in that new section, in relation to surrounding circumstances, the bill says:

decision maker must take into account all the circumstances that are relevant to the matter including

not only those issues that I have just highlighted but others that are listed there, including the accused's criminal history; the nature and seriousness of the alleged offending, including whether it is a serious example of the offence; the circumstance of the accused at the time of the offence; whether they have complied previously with bail there is a whole range of other things that I will not list here. The bill also goes on and explains how that could be then undertaken through a number of flowcharts, which is pretty self-evident.

As I am coming to the end of my contribution, I just want to reiterate again that the government has been slow to bring on these necessary reforms, particularly after the horrendous circumstances that occurred just a little over 12 months ago. That review was finished mid-last year. The government has had months to do this. It is a priority of the community that they have confidence in our justice system, and especially in our bail system. We have seen the unbelievable amount of serious crime that has occurred across the state in recent years, particularly these serious offences that have quite terrified many parts of the community, and that is why in order to deal with those issues we need to get these reforms in place. I would urge the government to reconsider their opposition to Mr Rich-Phillips's amendments and to support them to get these reforms and this legislation in place by 30 March of this year to make the community safer.

 

 


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