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Right to bail protected

An amendment made to the Bail Bill tonight will protect the right to bail of non-violent offenders who have not previously offended while on bail.

The amendment was initially proposed by Green Party justice spokesperson Nandor Tanczos and picked up by the Minister of Justice Phil Goff during the committee stages of the Bail Bill. Under the amended bill, non-violent offenders with 14 or more custodial sentences who have offended on bail in the past will bear the burden of proving why they deserve to receive bail.

The supplementary order paper originally proposed by the Minister of Justice would have seen all offenders with 14 or more past custodial sentences, regardless of whether or not they had previously offended while on bail, facing the burden of proof. Currently only violent offenders have to prove why they should get bail.

Mr Tanczos said the amendment would mean that restrictions on bail would be better targeted at those offenders who were more likely to re-offend while awaiting trial.

"The best indicator of whether a defendant is likely to reoffend on bail is whether they have offended on bail in the past.

"People who have shown that they do not respect their bail provisions will now have to prove why they should get bail. But this amendment will also protect the rights of those who show no past history of offending on bail," said Mr Tanczos.

"This amendment has brought us closer to the delicate balance between the rights of defendants and the protection of property," he said.

Mr Tanczos said his amendment would also reduce the expected increase in prisoners awaiting trial, which would reduce the additional pressure placed on already stretched prison services.

"The Ministers original supplementary order paper was estimated to increase the prison population by an additional 156 inmates per day. However, only 40 per cent of those with 14 or more custodial sentences have previously been convicted of offending while on bail, so I would expect this amendment to have a significantly smaller impact," he said.

Nandor Tanczos MP: 04 470 6716 or 025 246 5235 Gina Dempster, Press secretary: 04 470 6723 or 021 1265 289

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