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Courts make hundreds of bail decisions every week but we rarely hear about them. In the past month in New South Wales, however, we have heard much about three high-profile decisions granting bail to: Steven Fesus, accused of murdering his wife 17 years ago; Hassan “Sam” Ibrahim, charged with selling illegal firearms across western Sydney (bail was revoked on appeal); and Mahmoud Hawi, charged with the murder of Peter Zervas during a brawl at Sydney Airport in 2009.
Each was granted bail under the Bail Act 2013, which came into force on May 20 this year. The allegations these men face are serious but at this stage they are precisely that: allegations. Media coverage of these cases has conflated the role of bail with that of guilt and a desire to condemn and punish. It is suggested the new laws are “soft on crime”.
The cases demonstrate no such thing. Yet rather than defend the Bail Act, the government has yielded to the media outrage and announced a review after only a month’s operation. This vote of “no confidence” in the laws is premature and unfortunate.