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Liberty versus risk

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May 04, 2018

A Shepparton magistrate says the consequence of Bail Act amendments will be that more people will be remanded.

The changes take effect on July 1 and will raise the bar for an accused person attempting to be released on bail.

New language in the Bail Act means there is a significant increase in the chance bail will not be granted, where it might have been previously.

Shepparton Magistrate David Faram said the change was a result of ‘‘understandable public outcry’’ about a number of high-profile incidents in Melbourne.

‘‘This was a result of a small amount of people committing offences while on bail or parole,’’ he said.

Dimitrious Gargasoulas was released on bail days before his alleged involvement in the Bourke St rampage last year.

Mr Faram said it was offending like this, as well as the ‘‘exacerbated’’ perception of gang violence in Melbourne, which led to the changes.

‘‘The anticipated consequence is more people will be remanded,’’ he said.

‘‘The presumption that everyone is entitled to bail is, in certain offences, reversed ... the onus is reversed.’’

The changes mean those offenders facing serious Schedule 1 offences, like murder and treason, will need to prove ‘‘exceptional circumstances’’ before being released on bail.

‘‘The change in language suggests the bar is higher,’’ Mr Faram said.

‘‘If you are married and have responsibilities like children or employment, this might not be enough ... offenders face a tougher hurdle of being bailed.’’

Those offenders facing less serious Schedule 2 offence charges, including drug use or possession, will now have to show ‘‘compelling circumstances’’ to be granted bail.

‘‘It will impact people with drug habits, for example,’’ Mr Faram said.

‘‘For people caught with a small quantity of drugs, it might mean they have to prove compelling circumstances where it used to be show cause.’’

Mr Faram said the change in wording in the act would have a significant impact on a magistrate’s decisions but, as a matter of law, a presumption of innocence remained.

‘‘Magistrates have to balance an alleged offender’s right to liberty versus the risk they might pose to the community,’’ he said.

‘‘Offenders are still innocent until proven guilty.’’

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