Baird govt backflips on NSW bail laws

The Baird government has succumbed to public pressure over the controversial new bail laws by instigating a review only a month after they came into effect.


The backflip followed a media backlash in Sydney newspapers and on talkback radio to the bail reforms in the past fortnight.

The outcry over alleged wife killer Steven Frank Fesus being granted bail last week increased when former Comanchero bikie boss and alleged Sydney Airport murderer Mahmoud “Mick” Hawi walked out of Lithgow Jail on Wednesday night.

“The Attorney General and I have become concerned that some recent bail decisions do not reflect the government’s intention to put community safety front and centre,” Mr Baird said.

Attorney-General Brad Hazzard was doing the rounds on afternoon radio defending the system as recently as Wednesday afternoon.

The new risk-based approach replaced the presumption against bail for serious offences such as murder and were designed to reduce a complicated, inconsistent system.

Former Attorney-General John Hatzistergos will lead the review and is due to report back to the government by the end of July.

Mr Hatzistergos is to examine whether the Bail Act strikes the right balance between protecting the community and the justice system’s integrity.

The about-turn continues a testing opening two months in the job for Mr Baird.

Only a fortnight after becoming premier following Barry O’Farrell’s shock resignation for misleading the corruption watchdog, Mr Baird lost police minister Mike Gallacher to corruption allegations.

This month Mr Baird was forced into a compromise over the multi-billion dollar partial sale of the electricity network to keep coalition partners, the Nationals, happy.

Mr Baird exempted country-based Essential Energy from the sale and a number of guarantees surrounding the sell-off, including protection for workers within the power sector.

Opposition leader John Robertson said Labor welcomed the review but panned the Baird government’s handling.

“The government promised that community safety would not be compromised when they introduced their new bail laws,” he said.

“However, we have seen something completely different with widespread community concern about a number of cases.”

The criticism of the laws comes after Pauline Wright, from the Law Society of NSW, said the reforms made the system “tough but fair”.

“Our criminal justice system is based on the principle of presumed innocence,” she said this week.

“Unless there is something to suggest that you’re going to be a risk to the community, or that you’re going to be a risk of not going to court to answer the charges … then you’re entitled to bail.”