15 Aug 2012

Mother of rape victim pleads for tougher bail laws

10:06 pm on 15 August 2012

Families of abuse and homicide victims have made emotional pleas to MPs to toughen bail laws.

Parliament's Law and Order select committee is hearing submissions on the Bail Amendment Bill which proposes to put the burden of proof on the defence in some bail hearings, and remove youth bail.

The mother of a girl repeatedly raped by a family friend for seven years told MPs on Wednesday that the bail laws failed her and her daughter when they most needed them.

Tania, whose full name is suppressed, says the man terrorised them while on bail, and breached bail conditions numerous times before he was convicted and imprisoned.

"He drove past our house day and night, he tried to coerce witnesses to change their stories via threats to them, he threatened the detective in charge of our case with death and tried to disrupt our lives even more."

Tania told MPs that victims should not have to feel scared and at risk under the country's bail laws.

"It should not be my problem to hide my daughter in a safe house, as he knew where we lived. So I'm here today to plead to you to rethink these laws - and they do need to be tightened."

Wendy Pedler from the Red Raincoat Trust, which represents families of homicide victims, told MPs someone charged with a violent crime or has a previous history of criminal offending should not receive bail.

"I also think it very short-sighted to use the excuse that the country can not afford to keep people in prison. Surely it would make more economic sense to have kept that offender behind bars."

A spokesperson for the Sensible Sentencing Trust, Stephen Franks, told the committee the youth justice system is too soft on young offenders.

"The idea of treating young offenders with kid gloves is actually the wrong way to reduce your long-term crime rate, because rates don't change much after people have developed a pattern - by the time they've taken the message from the youth justice system that you can get away with stuff."

Mr Franks believes the burden of proof should be reversed for young offenders seeking bail.

The select committee is due to report back to Parliament by November this year.