Following reports earlier this week that trial delays are prompting judges to grant bail more readily, the office of the Attorney-General of NSW has said bail laws are stronger than ever.
On Monday The Daily Telegraph reported that a man accused of sexual assault had been granted bail “as a result of a justice system backlog that is clogging NSW’s courts”.
Speaking with Lawyers Weekly yesterday, a spokesperson for Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton said: “While bail decisions are a matter for the judiciary, in 2015 the Government toughened the bail laws to put community safety front and centre.”
Last year the government introduced a "show cause" test for serious offences, which requires the accused to justify why they should be given bail in the first place, according to the spokesperson.
“There is also more power to revoke bail,” the spokesperson added.
Law Society of NSW president Gary Ulman also responded to the media reports, saying that long-term funding solutions are needed to address trial court backlogs.
"There needs to be sufficient recurrent funding available for the courts, the office of the DPP and legal aid to ensure that these severe backlogs can be avoided," Mr Ulman said.
Mr Ulman said NSW has seen examples of an accused being held in custody awaiting trial for an average of 300 days, or almost 10 months.
"One-off court funding like that announced by the NSW Government in December is a step in the right direction, but provides only a short-term fix. We must have sufficient permanent judicial officers and court resources available at all levels of the judiciary."
The December reform included a $20 million package to decrease the NSW District Court backlog by more than 600 criminal trials over the next two years.
A spokesperson for the Attorney-General said the package includes extra sitting weeks, new judges and more public defenders.
“The extra funding is already making a difference with Wagga Wagga – one court that is having extra sitting weeks,” said the spokesperson. “An additional public defender will begin later this month.”
Commenting on the reports that an accused person had been granted bail, Mr Ulman said: "It's important to remember that these people have not yet been found guilty of a crime."