Bail reform is a step towards justice and Poccum’s Law

The Victorian Parliament is set to pass bail reforms this week. While these reforms are a step in the right direction, they fall short of what Aboriginal Communities and experts have asked for over many years.

VALS has always supported the advocacy of Veronica Nelson’s family for Poccum’s Law, which calls for:

  • removing the presumption against bail,
  • granting access to bail unless there is a specific and immediate safety risk, a serious risk of interfering with a witness, or a real risk that the person will flee the jurisdiction,
  • removing all bail offences, and
  • ensuring that a person is not remanded if they are unlikely to receive a sentence of imprisonment.

While the Bill and the amendments reported by the media do not go far enough to implement Poccum’s Law, it is positive that Victoria is finally implementing bail reform after a decade of punitive law changes that have destroyed lives, families and communities.

These reforms are happening because of the strength of Veronica Nelson’s family and Aboriginal Communities across Victoria.

VALS is pleased that the Victorian Government has agreed to a statutory review. This will be an opportunity for them to fully implement Poccum’s Law and ensure that what happened to Veronica never happens again.

VALS is well placed to work with the Victorian Government on the implementation and oversight of these reforms. We know that many of the problems with Victoria’s bail laws over the last decade have been caused by poor implementation, oversight and lack of accountability. A clear example of this was the evidence at the Coronial Inquest into the passing of Veronica Nelson that Victoria Police had an informal policy to automatically refuse bail in certain circumstances, a policy which contravened the Bail Act.

VALS has always advocated that children should not be held to the same standards as adults when bail is being decided. We hope that reforms to the presumption against bail for children will be removed entirely in the proposed Youth Justice Bill and enacted at the same time or sooner than the Bail Amendment Bill.

Quotes Attributable to Nerita Waight, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service:

“It should not be underestimated that the bail Bill in Parliament will make bail decisions fairer, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – and that is all thanks to the staunch advocacy of Veronica Nelson’s family.”

“After a decade of regressive and punitive bail laws implemented by both major parties, Aunty Donna and Uncle Percy have reversed the instinct of Victoria’s politicians to create bail laws that target marginalised people rather than creating strong communities.”

“While we celebrate the achievements of Veronica’s family, we know there is a lot more work to do. It is vital that these laws are implemented properly and that Victoria Police and the courts follow the intent of the reforms. We must not have more informal policies and bad decision-making that undermines the reforms.”

“VALS has always argued for the complete removal of the reverse onus provisions and for less onerous bail tests for children. We urge the Victorian Government to listen to our voice, accept our recommendations, and ensure the Bail Act is not trapping children in the legal system.”


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