Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — My question is for the Minister for Corrections representing the Attorney-General. After evaluating Victoria’s bail system the Honourable Paul Coghlan, QC, recommended reforming the current show-cause threshold to a show-good-reason threshold for what could be loosely described as those middle category offences. Changes proposed by the government have gone further, reforming the test to show compelling reason. This creates a higher onus for an accused seeking bail to overcome than the show-good-reason test that was recommended by Justice Coghlan. Like the Law Institute of Victoria I am concerned that this test essentially replicates the more stringent exceptional circumstances threshold that applies to the most serious offence types. What is the evidence base supporting the change to Justice Coghlan’s recommendation?
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — Thank you, Minister. This change will most likely result in lower level offenders being remanded for far longer periods than they would be sentenced to, and this will further result in first-time remandees and even the innocent accused, who are unlikely to be jailed, being subjected to extended periods of custody on remand. We know the deleterious effects that will have on their mental health, housing and employment — all of which help to prevent people from further offending. Given that our prison system is already bursting at the seams, with remandees already being housed in police stations across the state, how does this government propose to accommodate the increase in remandees that will flow from these changes?
RESPONSE TO SUBSTANTIVE QUESTION FROM THE MINISTER FOR CORRECTIONS:
The Coghlan Review recommended, at recommendation 5, that the expression ‘show cause’ be clarified as he had found it to be poorly understood. Mr Coghlan formed this view following broad consultation that indicated that that some decision makers are not giving appropriate weight to ‘show cause’ considerations. Mr Coghlan noted that this concern was a common theme in submissions to the Bail Review, including in submissions from Victoria Police, the Victims of Crime Consultative Committee, the Police Association of Victoria, the Office of Public Prosecutions, and three bail justices.
Mr Coghlan went on to recommend that the expression ‘show cause’ be replaced with ‘show good reason’, in order to simplify the show cause test and ensure that proper weight is given to the onus placed on accused persons in this category.
The Government decided to replace ‘show cause’ with ‘show compelling reason’. This is consistent with the spirit of the recommendation. It makes clear that an accused in this category must provide a reason or reasons why bail ought to be granted, and that it must be a compelling reason or reasons.
This test still falls well short of the other reverse onus test, which requires a person to show exceptional circumstances why bail ought to be granted. Requiring a ‘compelling reason’ is not equivalent to requiring exceptional circumstances. It remains a lower hurdle.
RESPONSE TO SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTION:
Any increase in accused persons being housed on remand will be managed through additional beds becoming available across the system in coming months, including the new Ravenhall Prison.
The 2017-2018 Budget also includes significant other funding to support Victoria’s bail system and criminal justice system more generally. $25.2 million is being provided to expand the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP) and CISP Remand Outreach Pilot to provide specialist court support services to more than 2000 additional participants annually. $3.4 million is being provided to establish a Fast-Track Remand Court to speed up the processing of youths on remand. $89.2 million is being provided to update the ageing IT systems at the Children’s and Magistrates’ Courts, which will mean the courts are able to work faster and get people through the system more efficiently.