11 Nov 2012

Bail bill 'moves towards' campaigners' demands

10:20 am on 11 November 2012

The chair of Parliament's law and order select committee, Jacqui Dean, hopes its proposals to change bail laws will at least partially satisfy those campaigning for tougher bail terms.

The Bail Amendment Bill has been approved by a majority of the committee and would remove the strong presumption in favour of bail for 17- to 19-year-olds.

The bill proposes that 17-year-olds who have previously received prison sentences should no longer be favoured to get bail, and 18- and 19-year-olds should be required to face the same test for bail as adults.

Public submissions have called for violent offenders to be denied bail and judges to be held accountable for bailing offenders who go on to commit serious crimes.

The committee heard 285 submissions, including one from the parents of the Auckland teenager Christie Marceau who was killed by 19-year-old Akshay Chand while he was on bail.

Christie Marceau's family presented a petition to Parliament in May, signed by 58,000 people, that urged stronger bail laws.

Committee chair Jacqui Dean said petitioners wanted bail refused for everyone accused of a serious offence. "We didn't go that far but we did move towards what they were asking for."

However a prison reform lobby group says the proposed changes would lead to hundreds more young people being detained in adult prisons in appalling conditions.

Prison Reform Society spokesperson Peter Williams says holding more young people in jail would push up the suicide rate.

"Children are very vulnerable and it is wrong not to give them bail where they should have bail."