The Victorian Greens have said the Victorian Labor Government must implement meaningful bail reform now and not in twelve months’ time, as reports overnight have suggested.
The Greens say any delay could have tragic consequences for First Nations Victorians and see the already high number of unsentenced prisoners on remand continue to grow.
Draft working documents obtained by The Age overnight have revealed that the Government plans to table a bail bill in the coming weeks.
However, these documents suggest the proposed reforms won’t come into effect for another year. They also suggest the Government is only planning to limit the ‘reverse onus’ test, despite legal experts and First Nations advocates calling for it to be scrapped completely.
Victorian Greens justice spokesperson, Katherine Copsey, said the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was clear that reducing First Nations deaths in detention would only be achieved when governments used prison as a last resort.
She said it was disappointing the Government seemed to once again be ignoring this lesson for political reasons.
The Greens have prepared their own exposure draft Bail Amendment Bill with justice stakeholders, in line with what legal experts and First Nations advocates have been calling for.
They say they are ready to work constructively with the Government to get these reforms right, and introduce meaningful bail reform as soon as possible.
More than 1 in 3 (37.4%) people currently in detention in Victoria are not sentenced, a figure which is even higher for women (40%).
Quotes attributable to Victorian Greens justice spokesperson, Katherine Copsey MLC:
“We all know what needs to be done, the Government has known since 2019. Yet there remain vulnerable people in pre-trial detention as we speak, for no good reason.
“That’s why we need meaningful bail reform now, not in 12 months. Waiting another year to implement these changes will have tragic consequences for First Nations Victorians.
“And despite the Victorian Law Reform Commission recommending the reverse onus test be scrapped altogether back in 2007, it appears the Government only intends to limit it, directly going against the advice of legal experts and First Nations communities.
“The Greens have a bill before Parliament right now in line with what the experts are calling for, that we could pass tomorrow. We just need the political will.
“We look forward to seeing the Government’s bill, and working with them constructively to get these reforms right.
“Without urgent and meaningful reform, the Victorian Labor Government’s enduring legacy may well be that their justice policies were directly responsible for the imprisonment of more First Nations Victorians than at any time in recorded history.”