Victorian Labor may delay bail reforms

August 7, 2023
Survival Day protest in Gadi/Sydney. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

The Victorian government is planning to introduce changes to harsh laws that restrict the granting of bail to people accused of minor offences — but they are not going to be implemented immediately.

Amendments to the law in 2018 led to a doubling of the number of First Nations women in prison within a year.

Coroner Simon McGregor, who conducted the inquest into the death of Gunditjmara, Dja Dja Wurrung, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman Veronica Nelson in prison in January 2020, recommended changes to the law in his report in January.

Nelson died of multiple medical problems. McGregor criticised medical and prison staff for ignoring her appeals for help and not sending her to hospital.

McGregor also criticised the bail law that sent Nelson to prison while awaiting trial on a shoplifting charge, instead of freeing her on bail. He said change is “urgently” needed.

However, The Age reported on July 31 that the proposed changes will not take effect for another year.

Amala Ramarathinam, of the Human Rights Law Centre, criticised this, saying: “Any delays to wholesale reform will mean the Andrews government will continue inflicting unnecessary and preventable harm on people, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and put them at risk of dying in a police or prison cell.”

The Age said that the proposed changes would implement some but not all of the coroner’s recommendations.

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