OPPOSITION PUTS VICTIMS FIRST WITH URGENT BAIL REFORM
Leader of the Opposition, Lia Finocchiaro, says Labor’s monumental failures to address the Territory’s escalating crime wave over the last four and a half years in government means the CLP is again taking the lead by introducing crucial bail reform.
“Territorians have had a gutful and are breaking point. They cannot take it any longer.
“Repeat offenders who make up the vast majority of those committing crimes must face tougher penalties and the revolving door of bail has got to stop. That is why the Opposition is introducing the Bail Amendment Bill 2021.
“Our own Chief Minister doesn’t even know it was his Labor Government that gave repeat offenders a presumption of bail. Our Bill sets a presumption against bail for repeat adult and youth offenders, brings back breach of bail conditions as an offence and imposes mandatory electronic monitoring if a repeat offender is granted bail.
“These important bail reforms target serial offenders who repeatedly put the community at risk and make them accountable for their crimes.
“The Chief Minister has repeatedly failed to show leadership on the issue of law and order.
The Opposition has listened to the deafening outcry from the public and police to reverse Labor’s watered down bail laws.
“When the peak body representing 99 percent of the Territory’s police force – the NT Police Association – is calling the Gunner Government’s bail laws ‘weak’ and demanding action, it’s a blunt message that the current system isn’t working.
“The Gunner Government can’t even fulfil its most basic function of keeping Territorians safe. NT crime statistics, made public on Friday, show violent crime – assaults, domestic violence and alcohol-related assaults – has dramatically increased right across the Territory.
“More than 3.5 million people have now witnessed the Chief Minister’s crime shame which was broadcast on A Current Affair’s. Labor’s failures have been sensationally highlighted on the national stage and as well as a break down in law and order, the Territory is grappling with an appalling economic and tourism crisis as a result.
We call on the Gunner Labor Government to support our laws and end the chaos,” said Ms Finocchiaro.
Consequences removed for youth offenders
In March 2019, the Gunner Labor Government introduced amendments to the Youth Justice Act and Bail Act, which not only made it easier for youth offenders to get bail but also removed breach of bail conditions as an offence.
These changes set out the presumption in favour of bail for youths as well as decriminalising breach of bail, as set out in the following amendments passed by the Gunner Government.
Clause 9. Section 8A inserted. This clause inserts a new section 8A ‘Presumption in favour of bail for youths’, which sets out the presumption in favour of the granting of bail for youths;
Clause 13. Section 37A and 37B replaced. This clause replaces the current sections 37A and 37B which sets out the offence of breach of bail. The effect of this amendment is to decriminalise breach of bail conditions as it applies to young people.
The Opposition has long recognised that these changes have exacerbated the revolving door of bail.
Repeat offenders must face tougher consequences
Repeat offenders make up a vast majority of those committing crimes in the Territory and a strong message must be sent that continued criminal behaviour will not be tolerated. The Police Commissioner has advised the public that 75 percent of people dealt with by Strike Force Viper are repeat offenders, and Alice Springs and Tennant Creek have seen a 40-50 percent spike in property crime.
Questions by the Opposition in Estimates shockingly revealed half of all youths arrested in the 2019-20 financial year were on bail at the time of their arrest. The NT Police Association, which represents 99 percent of the Territory’s police force has publicly slammed the Labor Government’s bail laws as “weak”.
Bail Amendment Bill 2021
The Opposition will introduce legislation in the March 2021 sittings of parliament to take the first step in reforming our bail laws and holding repeat offenders to account. The Bill will achieve the following objectives:
- Repeat offenders— introduce a presumption against bail for any person (whether a youth or adult) that:
- Has been convicted of two (2) or more offences with two (2) years; or
- A person who is alleged to have committed another offence while on bail
- Reform of youth bail—reverses changes to the Bail Act for alleged youth offenders, including:
- Remove the current presumption in favour of bail for repeat offenders, including for property offences; and
- Reinstates breach of bail conditions as an offence
- Electronic monitoring – if a repeat offender is granted bail despite the presumption against bail, electronic monitoring will be a mandatory condition
- Presumption against bail for serious offences—offences on the ‘prescribed offences’ list will be added to section 7A and will now result in a presumption against bail for both youths and adult offenders, whether it is their first offence or not (this includes crimes such as robbery, assault with intent to steal and unlawful entry of buildings)
Bail is the extension of trust. Where a serious crime has been committed and that trust has been broken in the past, either through breach of bail conditions or where a pattern of sustained re-offending has been established, the bar for subsequent bail should be higher.
The endless cycle of offending, bail and re-offending must be broken.
Part of the solution is to ensure that repeat offenders understand that bail is not automatic and that if your breach your bail, you can be charged.
These reforms are designed to increase the rights of victims, over the rights of offenders.