Controversial bail laws pass NSW Parliament

AFTER much debate, the NSW Government passed controversial laws to prevent repeat youth crime last week, with legal organisations pledging to fight the decision.

Parliament passed legislative changes last week to amend the Bail Act 2013 to include a temporary additional bail test for young people between fourteen and eighteen charged with committing certain serious break and enter offences or motor vehicle theft offences while on bail for similar offences.

Stardust CircusAdvertise with News of The Area today.
It’s worth it for your business.
Message us.
Phone us – (02) 4981 8882.
Email us –

“The government is aware of concerns about tightening bail laws for young people and it has approached this change cautiously in light of the potentially serious consequences for young people and, in particular, Aboriginal young people,” NSW Attorney General Michael Daley said.

“This is why the change is time limited and relates to young people who are already alleged to have committed at least one offence while on bail for another relevant offence.”

Among the changes, a new performance crime offence has been introduced targeting those who advertise certain crimes on social media.

“The new ‘post and boast’ offence targets performance crime – where offenders post footage of their law-breaking online – in connection with car crime and break and enter offences,” Mr Daley said.

“This behaviour is unacceptable and has to stop.

“People have a right to sleep safe in their beds in the sanctity of their home and should not have to face being retraumatised, ridiculed and shamed with images of the crime being made into a warped kind of ‘entertainment’.”

Greens MP and spokesperson for justice Sue Higginson has since described the new bail laws as “the legislation of a coward”, claiming they would “see vulnerable children and young people locked up”.

Ms Higginson has claimed that Government members were personally instructed by the Premier to “block some 20 proposed amendments to the laws”, including from legal experts such as the NSW Bar Association and the Law Society of NSW.

“The opposition to these laws is remarkable,” she said.

“The Bar Association, the Law Society, the cross bench and even members of the Liberal Party and the government united against both the spirit and execution of new laws.

“We’ve witnessed unanimous, grave concern about the careless breadth and consequences of these laws.

“This is legislation forced on the government and the state by the Premier to appease a few shock jocks and columnists.”

Ms Higginson said vulnerable groups would be “hit hardest” by the new laws.

“They will be First Nations children and young people, and children with mental illness and disability.

“They will be children who are going hungry and who don’t have a steady roof over their heads.

“They don’t need jail time.

“They need help.”

Last Monday, a range of organisations across Australia united to call on the NSW Premier to scrap the plans which they believe will result in putting more children in jail.

Two open letters were distributed to the media, one from 60 civil society groups and another from over 500 academics, lawyers and community workers.

The civil society groups’ letter said the State Government’s new measures were a betrayal of Closing the Gap commitments and ignore “decades of evidence on how to reduce youth crime”.

The co-signed argue the measures prioritise punishment over investment in proven prevention strategies and will “cause crime to get worse” and “delay measures that could reduce crime”.

The second open letter, co-signed by legal practitioners, community workers and academics working across the fields of law, criminology, social sciences and Indigenous studies, outlines concerns that the proposed laws will make it harder for young people aged fourteen to seventeen to be released on bail for certain offences.

“We support the Premier’s goal to improve community safety and wellbeing and strengthen early intervention initiatives.

“The proposed laws however will have the opposite effect.

”The evidence tells us that such laws do not make communities safer and in fact exacerbate the social drivers of young people’s contact with the justice system,” the letter read.

Several days prior to the passing of the bill, a research paper from the Justice Reform Initiative was launched in the NSW Parliament, offering alternatives to prison such as early intervention and prevention programs, First Nations place-based approaches and bail support programs.

The paper, ‘Alternatives to Incarceration in NSW’, argues New South Wales relies on a system of incarceration for children and adults that is harmful, expensive and ineffective.

“Prison does not work to reduce crime; it does not work to build safer communities; and it does not work to address the social drivers of contact with the criminal justice system,” the paper states.

“The overuse of incarceration in NSW has historically been driven by a politicised approach to justice policy, with both major parties frequently competing to promote a ‘tough on crime’ agenda.

“Too often decision-making about critical policy and legislative reform has focused on political rather than policy outcomes.”

The Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) NSW/ACT says a major campaign will now be launched that will not end until the laws are scrapped.

“We are drawing a line in the sand.

“We cannot accept an Australia that puts children in jail instead of evidence-based policy that actually makes communities safer,” ALS CEO Karly Warner said.

“Time will show that these laws will increase crime and make communities more dangerous.

“We won’t stop until this betrayal of vulnerable children and of Closing the Gap is overturned and replaced with the solutions that actually make a difference.

“This is the beginning, not the end, of our advocacy,” Ms Warner said.

The State Government also announced last week that the Legislative Assembly Committee on Law and Safety will undertake an inquiry into community safety in regional and rural communities.

Leave a Reply