Victorian Government’s Bail Bill is a good first step, but can be improved

VALS has been proud to represent Uncle Percy, Veronica Nelson’s partner, during his fight for justice. Uncle Percy, along with Veronica’s mother, Aunty Donna Nelson who is represented by Robinson Gill, have been clear on their calls for changes to the bail laws.

Veronica Nelson was a strong Gunditjmara, Dja Dja Wurrung, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman. She was connected to her culture and close to her family and community. Veronica’s nickname was Poccum, based on the way she pronounced Possum as a child.

The Victorian Government has today announced a Bill to reform the states bail laws. The Bill is a small step towards Veronica’s family’s calls for Poccum’s Law, which has four key asks:

  • removing the presumption against bail,
  • granting access to bail unless there is a serious and immediate safety risk,
  • removing all bail offences, and
  • ensuring that a person is not remanded if they are unlikely to receive a sentence of imprisonment.

It is good to see some significant wins off the back of the advocacy by Veronica Nelson’s family, including the removal of two bail offences, the removal of almost all reverse onus provisions for children, and the strengthening of special considerations for Aboriginal people.

It is concerning that the Victorian Government is proposing to only tinker with the reverse onus provision given it’s incompatibility with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act.

We are also concerned that the Victorian Government’s Bill will make the Bail Act more complicated, rather than making it simple and clear so that it can function more effectively.

VALS hopes that the Parliament can make several amendments to improve the Bill including:

  • Including a statutory review of the Bill 12 months after it is enacted
  • Removing the reverse onus provisions,
  • Quicker enactment of the Bill.

VALS appreciates that the Attorney-General, Jaclyn Symes, has included us in consultations during the development of this Bill and we hope to continue working with the Government to ensure the Bail Act has the right settings to be fair, just and enhance community safety.

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

“This is a first small step towards ending the damage that Victoria’s bail laws have done over the last 5 years particularly.”

“Veronica is the reason the Government is changing the bail laws. All the Parliament should centre her story when they debate the Bill and be respectful of her family.”

“Veronica’s family have been clear on asking for changes to the bail laws and I hope the Parliament will ensure the Bill reflects the family’s wishes.”

“There are some good changes thanks to the advocacy of Veronica’s family, especially in relation to removing bail offences, making it easier for children to get bail, and changes to reduce the overincarceration of Aboriginal people.”

“We are also confident that the Government will ensure that these reforms are properly resourced so that they are properly implemented.”

“There has been 3 bail bills before this in the last decade and the Government has admitted that there was mistakes in all of them. They should accept that they probably haven’t got this one right either and set a timeline for reviewing the Bill in the legislation.”


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