Bail reform to consider needs of most vulnerable
UnitingCare Children, Young People and Families (UnitingCare CYPF) has welcomed the New South Wales Government’s proposed changes to the Bail Act 1978.
The changes are a first step to help address the unique needs of disadvantaged children and young people.
On November 28, Attorney General Greg Smith released the Government’s response to the NSW Law Reform Commission’s review of the Bail Act, which includes greater recognition of the needs of vulnerable groups, including young people.
“We’re pleased the Government has acknowledged that bail laws should have greater recognition of the needs of young people,” said Karen Bevan, Director Social Justice for UnitingCare CYPF.
“We look forward to seeing how this will work in practice and what impact it will have on the unacceptably high numbers of young people currently held on remand in New South Wales.
“Allowing a young person to make two bail applications is an improvement but may not go far enough to reduce the number of young people on remand.
“Currently, bail law in New South Wales makes no distinction between young people and adults. This lack of distinction is leading to poor outcomes for children and young people who come into contact with the juvenile justice system.
“We are disappointed the Government did not take this opportunity to establish separate bail provisions for young people and adults.
“Approximately half of the daily population of New South Wales juvenile justice centres is young people being held on remand. Only one in five of those held on remand will go on to receive a custodial sentence.”
With four out of five young people on remand not being convicted, Ms Bevan said some of the most vulnerable young people were needlessly being exposed to the juvenile justice system.
Aboriginal young people, young people who are in or have been in out-of-home care, young people who are experiencing homelessness and/or young people who have mental health impairments are over represented in the juvenile justice system.
“Contact with a juvenile justice system is a leading indicator in re-offending,” Ms Bevan said.
“Once a new Bail Act is in place, the Government should monitor these new provisions to ensure that we are no longer needlessly holding young people on remand in juvenile justice centres.”