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Sydney news: NSW’s legal fraternity concerned at new bail laws

Here’s what you need to know this morning.

Law society fears unintended consequences of bail amendments

Joanne van der Plaat said the reforms could have unintended consequences.(Supplied: Law Society of NSW)

The NSW Law Society has expressed its fears over rushed changes to the Bail Act, including that it could discourage guilty pleas and clog the justice system.

Its concern comes as New South Wales Attorney-General Mark Speakman promised to introduce two amendments this week to parliament, including that people charged with serious offenses be remanded in custody.

“This would only add pressure to a criminal justice system still struggling with COVID-19 related backlogs,” said NSW Law Society President Joanne van der Plaat.

She said a balance must be struck between reducing the risk of further offending and recognizing that an accused is innocent until a court finds them guilty.

“While the government has described the introduction of these reforms as ‘swift and decisive’, the Law Society
considers that insufficient time has been allowed to permit thorough and considered consultation and to ensure the
reform is based on evidence,” Ms van der Plaat said.

“Rushed reform can lead to flawed laws.”

The Aboriginal Legal Service says the proposed amendments may see more Aboriginal adults and children imprisoned and, derail progress on Closing the Gap.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Aboriginal Legal Service and the community-controlled sector was not consulted on this major reform, despite the government’s professed commitment to working in partnership on Closing the Gap,” chief executive Karly Warner said. “We were blindsided.”

‘Toughest-ever’ laws to tackle organized crime

Perrottet sits with his hands folded at a table.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has unveiled his government’s plans to tackle organized crime. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

The New South Wales government has unveiled plans to introduce what it is calling the “toughest-ever” laws to target organized crime.

Under the plan, police will be given more power to seize key financial assets and unexplained wealth.

It also includes new prohibition orders to target high-risk individuals, likely to be using encrypted messaging to avoid police.

The New South Wales government says that, by preventing criminals from accessing money, it will slow the drug trade and other illegal operations.

“To truly shut it down, we need to shut down the flow of dollars that fuels it,” Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

“These reforms will better arm law enforcement agencies with the powers they need to confiscate unexplained wealth and create new offenses and tougher penalties for those seeking to launder money derived from criminal activity.”

The law reforms will be introduced to Parliament later this year.

Labor promises toll relief in budget reply

The bridge with traffic on it
The Sydney Harbor Bridge is a main thoroughfare for commuters. (abcnews)

New South Wales Labor has promised to turn the revenue earned from tolls on the Sydney Harbor Bridge and tunnel into toll relief for motorists, if it wins the state election in March.

Opposition Leader Chris Minns will make the announcement in his budget reply speech this morning.

“This is the first step to toll relief for New South Wales motorists,” Mr Minns said, “under Labor, and we’ll have more to say as we get closer to the next election.”

Up to $134 million, on average, per year is generated in government revenue from the bridge and tunnel tolls, which, under Labor’s plan, would help fund its toll scheme.

From July, the government promised that motorists would receive up to $750 a year as a toll rebate, once a motorist has spent more than $375 on tolls.

In the budget reply speech, the Opposition will also pledge to build 100 public preschools on primary school grounds in its first term in office.

Bigger penalties for unlawful industrial action

People walking in distance
Unions in NSW have launched a wave of strikes during 2022.(abcnews)

The NSW government wants to amend legislation to impose harsher penalties for unions that take “illegal” strike action and industrial action.

That plan comes as after a year of rolling strikes in the state, with the NSW Teachers Federation and the Independent Education Union set to walk out next Thursday, June 30.

Under its proposed amendments, the maximum penalty would increase to $55,000 for the first day of the alleged contravention, plus $27,500 for each day it continued.

For a second or subsequent offenses, an $110,000 maximum penalty could be handed down, followed by an additional $55,000 for each day the contravention continues.

These penalties are currently available to courts in Queensland.

Minister for Finance and Employee Relations Damien Tudehope said the increased ends were designed to determine unions from disrupting essential services.

“Illegal strike action has had incredibly damaging consequences for students, families and workers across the state,” Mr Tudehope said.

“We have the Industrial Relations Commission and associated legal frameworks in place to deal with industrial disputes in a fair and reasonable manner.”

At present, ends of $10,000 for a first offense and $20,000 for a second offense are in effect. The costs of continuing so-called illegal industrial action are $5,000 and $10,000 per day for first and second offences, respectively.

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