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NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman has defended the state’s magistrates against a “pile-on” over controversial bail decisions, as a high-level group of police, bureaucrats and lawyers scrutinises the laws to determine whether the decisions were aberrations or evidence of broader systemic issues.

Last week, Mr Speakman asked the state’s Bail Act Monitoring Group to identify any issues in the decision to grant bail to alleged drug kingpin Mostafa Baluch, who broke off his ankle monitor last month and was on the run for more than two weeks before he was recaptured on Wednesday morning; and Stanley Russell, who was shot dead in a confrontation with police in north-west Sydney while on bail on Tuesday.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman.Credit:James Brickwood

Four other bail decisions – including that of Salim Hamze, who was killed in a gangland attack in October, and Finks bikie Daniel Middlebrook – were also highlighted by Mr Speakman in his request to the group.

On Wednesday, after police recaptured Mr Baluch at the Queensland border, Mr Speakman said the “poor outcome” in that case was one that had prompted him to ask the group to look at whether bail laws were adequate.

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“That’s what we want to investigate, to see if there’s a need for reform,” he said.

Mr Speakman told 2GB radio this morning that “the Local Court deals with 100,000 bail applications every year” and “it’s a very difficult balancing exercise”.

He resisted calls by 2GB host Ben Fordham to display “fire and brimstone” about the decisions.

“I understand community concern where you hear of serious allegations and people appear to be getting out on bail,” Mr Speakman said.

“Sometimes you can look at cases, and you scratch your head and you wonder why was bail granted in that case … [but] it’s not all a one-way argument.

“Inevitably there are going to be some aberrations; inevitably there are going to be some decisions that cause concern.”

Asked why he was not “angry” like NSW Police Minister David Elliott, Mr Speakman said: “What I’m not going to do is have a pile-on on judicial officers who work day in, day out, dealing with 100,000 cases a year. Do they get it wrong sometimes? They obviously do. If there’s a systemic problem, we have to look at that.”

He said magistrates were tasked with balancing community safety concerns against the presumption of innocence. It was not fair to hold people in custody for extended periods when a person might be acquitted or receive a non-custodial sentence, he said.

The Bail Act Monitoring Group would consider whether the recent decisions pointed to “any systemic issue” or if magistrates were “broadly getting it right”, he said.



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