A Summary of Victoria’s New Bail Law Reforms
Updated: Oct 26
Victoria proposes to reform the bail laws pursuant to amendments to the Bail Act 1977 (Vic). These crucial reforms seek to make Victoria’s bail laws fairer for the vulnerable and disadvantaged, particularly for First Nations women and other marginalised people.
In the first reading speech of the legislation the Attorney General remarked:
“These reforms are sensible, proportionate and necessary. They address the most urgent changes needed to our bail system so that those involved in minor offending don’t have a major life setback because of it” – Symes.
The need for changes to bail intensified following the in-custody death of Veronica Nelson, an aboriginal woman (Gunditjimara, Dja Wurrung, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta).
The new legislation reverses the position where an accused could be remanded in custody for relatively minor offences (such as shoplifting).
It is proposed under the new legislation to remove the requirement that has arisen as a feature of our bail legislation that an accused satisfy the Magistrate or Judge that they should be granted bail as opposed to the prosecution proving the contrary.
The proposed reforms seek to change the definition of “unacceptable risk” so as to make it clear that minor offending is insufficient to refuse bail unless the accused poses a risk to an individual’s safety and welfare.
Further reform may result in the abolition of bail offences (i.e. Failure to answer bail, Breach a condition of bail etc.). If bail conditions are breached, the prosecution may take steps to revoke a person’s bail without charging that person with a bail offence.
Another area of reform concerns the ability to list a further application for bail in circumstances where the first attempt was unsuccessful.
The current position requires an applicant to establish new facts and circumstances should they wish to make a further application for bail. Under the proposed new legislation this requirement will not be required.
The reforms outlined and contained in the Bail Amendment Bill 2023 above passed both houses and have received royal assent (24/10/23). Consequently, the amendments to the Bail Act 1977 (Vic) described above will take effect from the 25 March 2024 or unless an earlier commencement date is advised by the Government.