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Lawyers slam ‘gutless’ Victorian government for youth bail law decision

Lawyers have come down hard on the Victorian government’s changes to youth bail laws, labelling the decision as “gutless” and “harmful”.

user iconNaomi Neilson 22 March 2024 Big Law
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Rather than its promised reforms, the Victorian government has introduced an ankle bracelet trial for youth offenders on bail in a move that has angered many of the state’s top legal bodies.

Speaking to reporters about the ankle bracelet trial, Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said she was “comfortable” with the status quo and was not convinced “that the case has been mounted” to move ahead with plans to implement a presumption of bail for children.

Managing lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC), Monique Hurley, said Victoria’s bail laws have been “a disaster for children”.


“In backflipping on their commitment to make the youth bail laws fairer, the Allan Government has betrayed the state’s children and will condemn generations of children to the damage inherent in being left to languish in pretrial detention,” Hurley commented.

The HRLC said not only was it “gutless” of the government, but the bail laws are incompatible with the state’s Human Rights Charter.

A statement from the centre added reverse onus provisions have led to an increase in children kept inside youth prisons, with a “staggering” 80 per cent locked away to wait in pretrial detention.

The laws have disproportionally impacted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, the HRLC said.

“While shackling children with electronic monitoring devices might score cheap political points, they don’t prevent crime,” Hurley said.

“All the intrusive technology will do is expand the walls of youth prisons into children’s homes and communities further stigmatising children and setting them up to fail.”

Adam Awty, president of the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV), said they are “profoundly disappointed” in the government for abandoning the reform.

Co-chair of LIV’s criminal law section, Tim Schocker, added the abandonment “will affect the future of thousands of vulnerable Victorian children and exacerbate justice issues within our community”.

Schocker said electronic monitoring of adults is very rarely used and has been found to be an “expensive and problematic option”.

Using them on children will only draw them “further into the criminal justice system rather than towards rehabilitation”, Schocker added.