New regime gives police bail options

By Breanna Chillingworth.

The new Bail Act came into force across the state yesterday, bringing a new regime for police and courts to grant or refuse bail to people charged with offences.

Essentially, the new laws have a risk-management approach with a checklist to ensure each concern is met before a bail decision is made.

New England Sergeant Simon Meehan said some of the risk factors included whether there was any threat to victims or witnesses, or whether the accused would show up to court. 

“Once the risks are identified then police can work out if there are bail conditions that can minimise those risks,” he told The Leader.

“If we feel that the bail conditions can’t mitigate the risks, then police will refuse bail.”

Sergeant Meehan said police would also have to identify if the community would be endangered if the offender was out on the streets or if there was potential for further offences.

“It holds police to account because we have to answer all the criteria in the checklist to identify the risks,” he said.

The new Act eliminates the presumption in favour or against bail for offences, meaning each individual application is assessed on its merits and the circumstances surrounding it.

There is also sweeping changes for any breaches of bail and any action taken against the accused.

Sergeant Meehan said the new Act gives police more options.

“Before we had one option to bail refuse them, and put them before the court,” he said.

“Now we can take no action, issue warnings, refuse bail or issue a court attendance notice.”

The notices will mean offenders will be ordered to front court on a breach of bail to explain, before a magistrate or judge can determine if any bail changes are needed or if it should be refused.

“There is not a ‘six strikes and you’re out’, each one is assessed on its merits,” Sergeant Meehan said.

“It’s more for the minor breaches. We can take other courses of action rather than detaining them.”

The laws were passed by NSW parliament last year and the state government maintains the Act is more streamlined and consistent than the old laws.

More than 16,000 police as well lawyers, magistrates and judges have been trained in the new Act.

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