24 January 2023
Fitzroy Legal Service joins in calls from Aboriginal, legal, and human rights organisations for the urgent reform of Victoria’s bail laws.
People are innocent until proven guilty, and bail should provide for a person who is no risk to the community to be released from custody until they face the charges alleged against them. Our current bail laws however make it extremely hard for people to get bail, even when facing allegations of minor crimes.
“Imprisonment should be an option of last resort. We must reform the bail laws and reinstate bail as an expectation and a right except in the most serious of cases.” says Fitzroy Legal Service CEO, Kristine Olaris.
“It is clear that our system is broken. Our current bail laws commit people who have not been found guilty of an offence to months in prison for charges that wouldn’t ordinarily result in a prison sentence.”
There is widespread evidence that, rather than increasing safety for Victorians, the bail laws are incarcerating women and Aboriginal people and people accused of low-level, non-violent offending.
“The bail laws have a gendered impact, and are disproportionately harmful particularly to women experiencing family violence, homelessness, and who require mental health care. Short periods on remand are damagingly disruptive – to housing, employment, family connection and social supports in the community. Tragically, the bail laws have also had a human cost” says Fitzroy Legal Service Principal Lawyer, Hui Zhou.
“We look forward to the suite of recommendations by the Coroner in Inquest into the death of Veronica Nelson, and urge the government to act with urgency and intention to ensure that injustice does not prevail.”
Fitzroy Legal Service (FLS) has worked with the Victorian community since 1972 to achieve access to justice and more equitable legal outcomes. FLS provides legal information, advice, casework, and representation in the areas of civil law, family violence, family law and criminal law, with a specific focus on working with communities who are disproportionately impacted by law and policy, and those who face systemic barriers to accessing justice due to poverty, race, discrimination, and disability. FLS provides duty services at the Specialist Family Violence Court at Heidelberg, is collocated at Neighbourhood Justice Centre, Collingwood, provides a dedicated phone service for incarcerated peoples, as well as various integrated and multidisciplinary outreach programs reaching communities of colour, LGBTIQ+ communities, and people who use drugs.
For more information on the gendered impact of the bail laws, see:
Media contact: Hui Zhou, Principal Lawyer. PH: 0401 747 361.