- The Guardian
- Issue #2049
Photo: Mitchel Lensink (@mitchellens.ink) – www.rawpixel.com Public domain.
Lawyers are concerned that new bail laws recently passed in the NT will not reduce crime and will disproportionately affect Indigenous people. The Criminal Lawyers Association NT has described the laws as having a risk of “real injustice.”
“There is no evidence that locking people up reduces crime. If the government was serious about reducing knife crime, it would be looking at the causes of crime, and working with and resourcing communities appropriately,” said Greg Barns SC, national criminal justice spokesperson, Australian Lawyers Alliance.
“The bottom line is this – jailing your way out of crime never works. There is no empirical study anywhere in Australia that suggests this is the case. Furthermore, jailing vulnerable people, including women and Indigenous people, will lead to serious harm. There are many instances of harsh bail laws leading to those detained self-harming or suiciding in prison.”
The Australian Lawyers Alliance also warns against expanding the bail reforms to encompass “offensive” weapons.
“If the Opposition’s amendments had been accepted, the laws would have been even more unjust. A person carrying a drink bottle would find themselves locked up!” said Mr Barns.
“We are also very concerned about the presumption against bail for alleged co-offenders even if they do not possess a weapon themselves. This is self-evidently unjust. It means that police will have no incentive not to charge in weak cases. Further, it will mean people serving more time on remand than if they had been sentenced.
“The courts should be given full discretion to determine the risks to public safety or re-offending in determining bail.”