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Bail offences underline need for legislation

Justice Minister Phil Goff said today that the latest statistics on people who have offended while on bail highlight the need to give the Bail Bill the necessary teeth to do the job properly.

Mr Goff, who has been calling for Bail reform since 1994, said the figures released today were a national disgrace.

The latest available information on offending on bail is for 1997. In that year 11,236 people committed at least one offence while on bail. The vast bulk of these were for property offences, but in 1997 there were 5 murders, 1 attempted murder, 11 rapes, and 143 instances of aggravated robbery committed by people on bail.

"The need for more effective bail laws has been obvious to the country for the best part of 10 years now. National sat on its hands all that time until just before the election when it belatedly introduced the Bail Bill.

"Theirs was a half-hearted attempt that did not go far enough.

"We hope in the next few weeks to amend the Bill to target the hard core recidivist offenders whose statistics prove are likely to have a 80 to 90% chance of offending while on bail. These are people who have had 14 or more previous custodial sentences.

"We will reverse the onus of proof in relation to hard-core offenders. Instead of police having to persuade the courts that such people should not be bailed, the alleged offenders should have to prove to the courts that they are safe to be released into the community.

"A tougher stance on the bailing of recidivist offenders, charged once again with fresh counts of burglary, is consistent with the core commitment that this Government made in the election campaign," Mr Goff concluded.

ENDS

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