State bail laws across Australia continue to create strong debate after a number of high profile murders have left people numb over the circumstances that have lead to the deaths.
Australians were shocked of the news of 29-year-old ABC staffer Jill Meagher who was raped and murdered while walking home from a pub in Brunswick; 17-year-old schoolgirl Masa Vukotic was walking through a reserve near her home in Doncaster and was murdered by Sean Price who had a history of violent behaviour towards women. Mother of four, Teresa Bradford was murdered in her Gold Coast home by her husband David, who later took his own life. The murder came just two weeks after Bradford was granted bail for an attack on Ms Bradford two months earlier in which she was bashed and choked.
Journalist Tim Rose of 9 News has opened debate again on Australia’s bail laws in his story The bail failure: The glaring link between heinous Australian crimes
In the article, Tim Rose speaks to Special Counsel at Parke Lawyers, Roland Muller who provides legal context around the bail laws.
He says studies by the Sentencing Advisory Council in Victoria have shown that people who have greater information about the sentencing process tend to agree more with sentences handed down; those who know less tend to call for harsher sentences.
Mr Muller said outrage over bail laws often came from those without a sound knowledge of how the process actually works.
“It is easy for people to be outraged when someone commits a crime while on bail and automatically conclude that bail laws should be tightened,” he told 9 News.
This is particularly where people are not informed about how bail works and where they know little about the court system. It is similar to people’s reactions to sentences given to offenders and calls for ‘tougher sentencing’.
Studies by the Sentencing Advisory Council in Victoria have shown that people who have more information about the sentencing process tend to agree more with sentences handed down; those who know less tend to call for harsher sentences.
Perceptions that bail laws are too lenient often follow high-profile cases.
Mr Muller said decisions around bail “weigh up a person’s right to liberty against the need to protect the community” along with a series of surrounding circumstances.
“They include the nature and seriousness of the alleged offending, how strong the prosecution case is, the accused’s criminal history, compliance with previous bail conditions, whether the new offence is alleged to have happened while the accused person was already on bail or summons or subject to any sentencing order or parole,” he said.
“In cases of family violence, the court must also have regard to whether any family violence intervention order or family violence safety notice was issued.
“The court must also have regard to the personal circumstances of the accused, including their home environment, personal associations and background as well as any special vulnerability.
“Any known views of the victim, the nature of the likely sentence if the accused is found guilty and practical considerations such as how long a matter will take to get to trial must also be considered.”