Record-high remand cohort to grow with DV bail shift

Jack Gramenz, Alex Mitchell and Samantha Lock |

Legal changes ahead in NSW will make it more difficult for some domestic offenders to get bail.
Legal changes ahead in NSW will make it more difficult for some domestic offenders to get bail.

A record-high number of alleged domestic-violence offenders being held in custody in NSW will further increase, as some of those who manage to get bail will be tracked.

A revamp of how the state deals with accused perpetrators will make it harder for those charged with serious offences to get bail, reversing the onus of proof and requiring them to show magistrates and judges why they should be released.

Some of the judiciary overseeing cases will be hundreds of kilometres away as bail verdicts will be determined by magistrates via video links rather than country court registrars.

Those who get bail while facing serious domestic-violence allegations will be electronically monitored as part of the measures unveiled on Tuesday.

Changes making it easier to prosecute perpetrators who use tracking and surveillance devices have also been flagged before coercive control is criminalised from July.

Women’s Community Shelters chief executive Annabelle Daniel said the technology was pervasive, describing shelter staff pulling tracking devices from prams pushed by mothers who were fleeing violent and controlling relationships.

Police and courts needed a deeper understanding of what domestic and family violence risk and coercive control looked like, she said.

“That would head off a huge number of the concerns around the laws themselves.”

Premier Chris Minns expected the bail changes would mean more accused offenders would be held on remand, but the smaller cohort who were given conditional release would be subject to electronic monitoring.

He was unable to provide a time frame for implementing the program.

An electronic monitoring ankle bracelet
More electronic ankle bracelets need to be bought to roll out the expanded monitoring program. (Farid Farid/AAP PHOTOS)

More devices are needed for the expanded monitoring program, the premier said.

A cabinet-led implementation group will be set up for the scheme, and the laws are expected to be introduced to parliament within days.

“(The opposition) didn’t leave us with thousands of electronic monitoring devices in a cupboard somewhere to roll out … or a set of protocols for bailees in the community either, so we have to invent it from scratch,” Mr Minns said.

The coalition intended to work with the government to pass the legislation quickly, Opposition Leader Mark Speakman said, despite having pushed for a more expansive electronic monitoring program.

“We are concerned at the moment about what the time frame is … certainly it needs to be expanded, but you’re not starting from scratch,” he said.

The technology was already in use for some parolees, people with non-custodial sentences or people who paid for their own monitoring in a bid to secure bail, Mr Speakman said.

NSW Premier Chris Minns
Chris Minns expects the bail changes will mean more accused offenders will be held on remand. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

Offence categories for which bail decisions can be “stayed” while the accused remains in custody will be expanded under the changes.

Bail decision-makers will need to consider a range of risk factors, including physical and sexual abuse, coercive behaviour and stalking.

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research on Tuesday reported there are a record-high number of adults in custody for domestic-violence offences.

More than 3000 people were in custody for those offences in March, a near-64 per cent increase from five years earlier.

Reported domestic violence-related assaults rose more than 35 per cent, sexual offences by 30 per cent and intimidation and stalking by 96 per cent during the same period.

Mass rallies across Australia have demanded political action, with at least 28 women killed so far in 2024.

Forbes woman Molly Ticehurst was one of them.

The 28-year-old was allegedly murdered in April in her home by her former partner after he was granted bail by a registrar on charges of raping and stalking her.

Attorney-General Michael Daley had a very sad but respectful conversation with Ms Ticehurst’s father and his partner on Monday, he said.

“They were very grateful for the fact that we were bringing these laws in,” he said.

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