In Parliament

Bill Debate - Bail Amendment Bill 2023



Wednesday, 30 August 2023.

Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (15:39):

I rise to speak on the Bail Amendment Bill 2023.

This is an important Bill in that it makes changes to an important part of our justice system, and it is a part of our justice system that the Parliament and the broader legal system have grappled with over the recent decade in terms of managing offenders, managing difficult crimes, ensuring that people that should be in jail are in jail or people that should be on remand are on remand and allowing people that should not be on remand to remain in the community. And this is another step in that process.

It is important because this Bill should reflect the balance required in dealing with public policy in this area. We have seen especially over the last 10 years, and from this Government over the last five years, changes in terms of bail reforms to the way we deal with accused people. And what we have seen, what the statistics show and what the data show is that there has been an increase in the number of people that are on remand – quite a strong increase in fact, especially over the last 10 years.

To be fair to the Government, when they introduced reforms some five years ago, they did suppose that there would be an increase, and that has certainly occurred. There has been an increase.

This Bill in a number of ways looks to rebalance the way that Bail exists in this State. I think any mature conversation about public policy in relation to bail does need to understand that the approach to bail does need to be balanced, but we are also dealing with people who are accused in certain circumstances of very serious crimes – very serious crimes.

And in my community, which now has the highest number of aggravated burglaries in inner Melbourne, up from not being on the list at all I would imagine ever, this is an issue that is concerning. Aggravated burglaries and home invasions are happening extremely regularly, and they are happening to families in my community.

What is so upsetting about the types of crimes that are occurring is that they are happening to families often as they sleep. Only a couple of days ago I was talking to a mum who in the middle of the night woke up to a sound in her lounge room and came downstairs to find four people invading her home. She has four young children, and hearing her talk about the invasiveness of the crime was deeply touching. I thank her for sharing her story with me and can understand why she felt that that crime would stay with her for life and with her family for life. And I can completely understand the level of invasion she and her family felt.

Sadly, the instance is not a one-off. In fact, I am regularly talking to families in my community who have suffered similar crimes – most recently, many will recall, a young guy getting up in the morning, walking out to his kitchen and finding two men armed with machetes. I mean, can you imagine waking up to get your bowl and your Wheaties out in the morning and walking out to the kitchen to find two men with machetes? This is not happening as a one-off in my community. This is happening so regularly, it is hard to be sure that it is not targeted – that there is not a targeted attack on my community, especially in Brighton. And for families who are dealing with those crimes, they are crimes that, frankly, should not occur. We should aim for there to be no crime of this nature.

The Coalition has concerns with this bill – not overall, because on balance it is important to make changes in the way that the Government is proposing – but there are a couple of elements that I will briefly mention. One of them is the bail reforms and the need for one of our amendments which is being proposed to ensure that certain crimes are considered in a way where when an accused is committing these crimes in a compound way – more than once – the previous crime is properly assessed in terms of bail, because the first thing the police will say to me when I talk to them about home invasions and aggravated burglaries in my community is, ‘We have caught the person’, which is fantastic, but they may have caught them eight or 10 times prior. So, in terms of bail reform, it is of course important to understand that we need reform to ensure that the bail system works as we want it to, but we do want to make sure that when it comes to particular crimes, those crimes are properly addressed. One of the ways, as I spoke to, will be the Coalition’s proposal to amend the Bill.

The other thing the Coalition has proposed to do is ensure that there is judicial review. We have seen bail reform a number of times over recent years, so I think it is only prudent to be considering what you are doing and reviewing what you are doing in a measured way. Unfortunately, the bill in its current form does not include a review of that nature, so accepting the need for ongoing bail reform it would be only mature to review it. The Coalition is proposing to do just that, and I would hope that in good faith the Government would consider that amendment as well as the others proposed by the Coalition.

I will finish by highlighting the urgency of these issues as they exist in my community, especially some of the crimes this Bill seeks to deal with. Over the last 10 years the number of aggravated burglaries have increased by 578 per cent in my community of Brighton – 578 per cent. It is an extraordinary increase over the same time – as an aside – since the Government closed the Brighton police station. We have also seen a similar concerning increase in the number of motor vehicle thefts, which have increased 310 per cent over that same time. So, whilst it is important for the bail system to appropriately reflect and do what we want it to do, it is also important to understand that when it comes to particular crimes, the Bill could be better.

The Coalition has proposed an amendment in relation to particular crimes, especially around home invasion and aggravated burglary, where the Bill could be better, to ensure that where people commit crimes, those crimes are adequately assessed at time of bail.

The most disheartening thing that Victoria Police says to me – and they say it over and over again – is ‘It’s really tough when we catch them again and they get let out again on bail’. It is very disheartening for them. A senior member of Victoria Police recently said to me they believe there are some 200, 300 people in the State that they would say fall into the pool of people committing those crimes. So, when we have a bill that seeks to address issues in the bail system, we need to make sure that we look at the 200 to 300 people that Victoria Police have identified and say, ‘Do these reforms unfortunately make it easier for those people to commit further crimes?’