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Goff moves to toughen Govt bail law

Labour 2000 web site
Labour justice spokesperson, Phil Goff, said he would move to toughen up aspects of the Government's Bail Bill, reported back to Parliament today.

"The select committee has already taken some steps to toughen up the measures that the Minister of Justice Tony Ryall introduced, but Labour believes that the changes so far agreed to by National members do not go far enough.

"I will be introducing a supplementary order paper to make it harder for hardcore repeat offenders to get bail.

"We support the Government Bill as far as it goes. Labour agrees with consolidating bail law into one statute. We also support the other main changes to existing bail laws, such as taking into account the views of victims, and recording bail breaches. However, the provision to reverse the onus of persuasion for defendants who have allegedly committed a serious offence while on bail for another serious offence does not go far enough.

"The select committee has adopted my recommendation to make this provision (clause 10) also apply where there is a risk of the defendant committing serious property crime while on bail, rather than being restricted to violent offences.

"But this clause deals only with the specific case of being caught offending on bail. It does not address the problem of bail being granted to hardcore repeat offenders with multiple convictions and a history of offending while on bail.

"For offenders with 14 or more previous custodial sentences, there is a 42% conviction rate for further offences committed while on bail. Given that a small percentage of offenders are actually caught and convicted, the real offending rate while on bail for this group is closer to 80 or 90 percent.

"Where a defendant comes into this category and regards bail as a licence to continue to offend, the onus should be on them to persuade the judge that bail should be granted, rather than on police to persuade the judge that it shouldn't be.

"The reversal of onus should apply to those with 10 or more previous convictions who have abused bail in the past. The current bill applies only to those caught while on bail for their latest offence, and pays no attention to those with a history of offending while on bail," Mr Goff said.

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