Scott Tanner, Stephen Lawrence throw support behind bail program

A pilot program being conducted in Dubbo, aimed at giving Indigenous offenders options when it comes to bail conditions, has the backing of police and a prominent local barrister.

Since October 7, the program has been in place to allow the opportunity for offenders to change their location if circumstances change.

The program, a joint project between the Justice Department, the Aboriginal Legal Service and NSW Police Force, is scheduled to run for 12 months.

“What we’re doing is trying to encourage achievable bail conditions, because not everyone who gets bail goes back to a location that is safe or suitable,” Orana Local Area Command’s acting superintendent Scott Tanner said.

“We want to offer more support for Aboriginal adults at the bail stage because unfortunately we have a high Indigenous offender rates and a number of vulnerable groups.

“Bail is not a punitive action, people at that stage have been charged but aren’t found guilty by any means, so it’s about assuring the person will appear before court and that the victim and community can be protected.

“We want to work within the confines of the bail act to ensure that if people on bail find themselves in difficult circumstances, they can come to us with an alternative which then has to be ticked off.

“At the moment we’re only a few weeks in so it’s hard to tell whether it’s succeeding, but we want to assure people this is about seeking solutions to help people turn their lives around, not a way of going soft on alleged criminals.”

Barrister Stephen Lawrence said the trial is a small step forward in the right direction.

“The good thing about the program is that there is contact with a liaison officer within 24 hours of bail being granted to check everything is safe and suitable,” he said.

“I might be able to be bailed to one location and it be safe and stable, you might have the same luxury, but for a lot of people in the Indigenous community they don’t have that, so a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.

“Sometimes people will say anything or agree to anything to get bail, and then it pans out that it isn’t a good environment for them to be in.

“For them to have the opportunity to come to the police or the court and change that, rather than risk being found in breach of bail and get locked up again, can only be a good thing in my opinion.”