New legislation that comes into operation today will target those who commit further crimes whilst on bail or breach their bail conditions.
Attorney-General Robert Clark said the legislation means for the first time people breaching bail conditions will be committing an offence, carrying a penalty of up to three months in jail or a fine of up to $4,330.
The legislation also sets out a range of restrictions that an alleged offender can be required to agree to if released on bail, including curfews, no-go zones, residence requirements and non-contact conditions.
“This new law is designed to end the abuse of the bail process that flourished under the soft on crime approach of the former Labor government,” Mr Clark said.
“It is now an offence to breach bail conditions imposed to protect the community or prevent absconding, such as curfews, no-go zones, staying away from victims or witnesses or reporting to police.”
The new law also creates an additional offence for re-offending while on bail, with offenders liable to a further penalty of up to three months jail on top of the penalty for the offence itself.
Each indictable criminal offence committed while on bail will in future be subject to the new penalty in addition to the punishment for the crime itself.
An indictable offence is a more serious offence usually carrying a maximum penalty of more than two years in jail. Examples include assault causing injury, theft, burglary and drug trafficking.
“Those who commit crimes while on bail not only break the law, they also mock the bail system itself and breach the community’s trust,” Mr Clark said.
“The community is sick and tired of offenders released on bail who go straight back to re-offending. All too often, offenders released on bail go on to commit a string of further offences, be it burglaries, drug deals or other crimes, before coming to trial.
“Under these new laws, if you re-offend while on bail, you will stand to go to jail for longer.”
The new offences will also mean that police, bail justices and the courts will have a clear record of a person’s history while on bail should they seek bail in the future.
“The new offences for breaching bail and re-offending while on bail will not only deter further crime, they will also ensure that our legal system is better equipped to judge someone’s suitability for bail,” Mr Clark said.
The new legislation also acts to end “bail shopping” by requiring that any further applications for bail must be heard by the same judge or magistrate whenever practicable.
Applications to vary bail conditions, or to be granted bail after bail has been refused, will also require three days notice to be given to the informant and the prosecution unless the court or the parties agree otherwise.
“These key changes to bail laws are a further part of the Coalition Government’s reforms to strengthen the criminal justice system to better protect the community,” Mr Clark said.