VISITING Armidale on Friday, the NSW Attorney General Greg Smith said one of his key priorities in office was reforming the bail laws, especially as they apply to the juvenile justice system.
“It’s becoming harder and harder to get bail, particularly for young people who have broken the ties with home,” he said.
“There’s an inordinate number of young people on remand, and only about 20 per cent of them end up getting a custodial sentence. And a lot of them don’t even face a charge that carries a custodial sentence.
“It might be for refusing to move on, or being cheeky to the police. A minor discrepancy - and they end up in custody sometimes for up to six weeks.”
Mr Smith called this situation a breach of criminal justice traditions and said it led to higher crime rates.
“They’re exposed to the worst kinds in there. They meet the wrong people - they’d be better off outside, under supervision,” he said.
He noted this was a particularly significant issue for Aboriginal youth, who make up only three percent of the general population, but form around half of the juvenile detention population.
Mr Smith, who came to Armidale at the invitation of Guyra-based MLC Scot MacDonald, met with several groups of Aboriginal elders during his visit.
His itinerary included inspecting the site of the new Court House, discussions with Indigenous members of the circle sentencing and community justice group, a forum with local lawyers and law students at the University of New England, and an address to a Liberal party regional dinner and conference.