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Legal bodies call for NSW government to abandon proposed bail law reforms

Two open letters have been penned to NSW Premier Chris Minns following the Labor government’s proposed reforms to bail laws.

user iconGrace Robbie 20 March 2024 Big Law
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Sixty key legal organisations and bodies, including the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited, NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Human Rights Law Centre, and Reconciliation NSW, have sent an open letter to the NSW Premier Chris Minns.

In the letter, they urged the NSW Labor government to reconsider its planned amendments towards NSW’s current bail laws, which would make it significantly harder for young offenders to be granted bail.

Within the letter, the legal organisations stated that putting children in jail will make crime worse in regional communities, not better.


“Throwing more children in jail will lead to horrific outcomes for communities, families and those children, compounding abuse and trauma,” the letter read.

According to the letter, the NSW government “ignores decades of evidence on how to reduce youth crime” and “prioritises punishment over investment in the proven prevention strategies that you promised to implement”.

The legal bodies also outlined how the amendment of the bail laws will be a significant step away from NSW’s Closing the Gap Target and the new Closing the Gap partnership agreement that Minns signed off on in February.

“This is a devastating betrayal of Aboriginal children and other vulnerable groups across NSW,” the letter stated.

“This is a devastating betrayal of regional communities who want prevention measures, not stunts.”

The legal organisations pleaded for the government to “urgently replace” its planned amendments with prevention measures.

These include “resources allocated for local communities to support after-school, evening and weekend activities that engage at-risk young people, intensive and target programs and responses for at-risk children with appropriate referral services, and formal community partnerships between police and Aboriginal controlled services”.

Another open letter was also sent this week by more than 500 legal practitioners, community workers and academics, who stated that they “hold grave concerns about the proposed laws that will make it harder for young people aged 14–17 to be released on bail for certain offences”.

The letter outlined how it has been proven that implementation of such laws doesn’t make communities safe but rather “exacerbate the social drivers of young people’s contact with the justice system”.

The legal professionals and academics emphasised that young people who were denied bail were significantly more likely to be trapped within the criminal justice system and be in jail again.

They also stated in the letter that “the proposed bail changes and new offences will be disastrous for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people” as “it will exacerbate pathways to adult imprisonment, given the high rates of recidivism that correlate with youth detention”.

Rather, they supported the three-point youth crime prevention plan, which the other open letter outlined, as “these measures can work quality, without incarcerating young people”.

These letters come after the NSW government’s announcement last week (12 March 2024) that it would “introduce considered legislative changes to strengthen bail laws”.

The NSW government stated it plans to achieve this by amending the Bail Act 2013 “to include a temporary additional bail test for young people between 14 and 18 charged with committing certain serious break and enter officers or motor vehicle theft offences”.