Illawarra lawyer praises bail reform

An Illawarra lawyer has welcomed changes to the state bail act, saying the new legislation provides a "fairer" outcome for people accused of crimes, as well as the community.

James Howell, a senior associate at Kernaghan and Associates, said the changes, which took effect about two weeks ago, meant the onus was now on the prosecution to prove the accused posed an "unacceptable risk" to the community before bail was denied.

Previously, bail depended on the charge and the presumption for or against release.

The new act was put into use when accused wife killer Steven Fesus was granted bail on Monday.

"The removal of presumptions and the replacement of unacceptable risks and the way those risks can be mitigated is providing fair outcomes for accused persons as well as the community," Mr Howell said.

Some victims' advocacy groups have criticised the changes. However, Mr Howell said such criticisms were often "misguided".

"The new act does consider the risk of . . . reoffending and, therefore, the protection of the community when determining an application for bail," he said. "If those risks cannot be mitigated under the bail conditions, then the court would refuse bail.

"But if those risks can be mitigated or if there is no unacceptable risk, then bail must be granted."

Mr Howell said it was unlikely the change in legislation would lead to more people breaching bail.

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