NSW Premier Chris Minns’ proposed bail law amendments are being met with heavy criticism this month. 

Two open letters were sent to the premier the first signed by 529 reputable professionals across law, community work, and academia.

The letter warns the government will not achieve its goal of safer communities if the proposed changes go ahead.

The signatories claim the changes will lead to more children being detained than going to trial, which the premier concedes is likely but hopes will be a short-term issue. 

As the law currently stands, adults must prove they should be released whilst youth do not.

Instead, it must be proven there is an unacceptable risk that the accused youth will commit a serious offence or is a risk to the community which will then lead to a reprimand.

Under the proposed laws, 14-18 years will face a similar system to adults where a reprimand is the expectation and they must prove there is an absence of risk to the community.

Former Youth prosecutor Dr Victoria Colvin says this change is “creating a very high barrier to release.”

The open letter argues keeping youth out of prison pre-trial is crucial as they often aren’t given a custodial sentence.

Of the young people incarcerated in NSW last year, almost 75% were awaiting trial.

Colvin explains that once they are incarcerated, teenagers can become “enmeshed” within the justice system via social networks, “people like to make friends”

“If they are in the community they can be friends with all sorts of people if they are in prison… they will make friends with those people and they will become more deeply enmeshed in criminal life… and lose the positive connections they have in the community.”

The laws were proposed by Premier Minns along with non-judicial measures to help tackle youth crime in regional NSW.

Attorney General Micheal Daley told The Guardian the government had limited options, “if there was another option available to us today, to keep these children safe, we’d take it. but there isn’t.”

Amnesty International has echoed the open letter’s concern that the amendments will greatly impact First Nations children who are already overrepresented in prisons.

They warn that “tightening bail laws is anticipated to detrimentally impact the incarceration rates…consequently undermining the Closing the Gap outcomes.”

According to custody statistics 65% of the young people currently on reprimand in NSW are First Nations, despite making up only 3.8% of the general population

The proposed changes will go to parliament later this year and are expected to pass despite the NSW Greens announcing their opposition.