ECLC supports Poccum’s Law Bail Reform
ECLC along with 55 other legal, human rights and health organisations are proud to pledged support for “Poccum’s Law: The Blueprint for Bail Reform”.
The Centre will continue to stand with Veronica Nelson’s family and are proud to support this clear blueprint for bail reform as we collectively call on the Andrews Government to urgently implement bail reform so what happened to Poccum never happens again.
Read the official Media Release below:
| For immediate release: Wednesday 22 March 2023
Poccum’s Law: the blueprint to fix the Andrews government’s discriminatory bail laws
The family of Veronica Marie Nelson, a strong Gunditjmara, Dja Dja Wurrung, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman who passed away in custody, are calling on the Andrews government to implement urgent changes to the state’s bail laws and have asked that these reforms are referred to as Poccum’s Law.
“Poccum” was the nickname Veronica received from her family; as a child they took Veronica out to see a possum in the tree, and she would pronounce possum as ‘poccum’.
Thousands of people continue to be funnelled into Victoria’s prisons following knee-jerk amendments to Victoria’s bail laws. Since 2018 the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison has almost doubled, and right now a staggering 41.9% of people in prison are unsentenced and awaiting a court hearing or trial.
Victoria’s bail laws destroy families and communities and put people’s lives at risk. They have led to a soaring prison population, even though Victoria’s crime rates have flat-lined.
The Coronial Inquest into Veronica Nelson’s passing labeled the bail laws ‘a complete and unmitigated disaster’. The Coroner found that the bail laws discriminate against Aboriginal people, are incompatible with Victoria’s Human Rights Charter, and should be changed urgently.
56 organisations in the legal, human rights and health sectors, including the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Robinson Gill Lawyers, Dhadjowa Foundation and the Human Rights Law Centre, support the family’s calls and urge the Victorian government to immediately implement Poccum’s Law by:
1. Removing the presumption against bail.
2. Granting access to bail unless the prosecution shows that there is a specific and immediate risk to the safety of another person; a serious risk of interfering with a witness; or a demonstrable risk that the person will flee the jurisdiction.
3. Explicitly requiring that a person must not be remanded for an offence that is unlikely to result in a sentence of imprisonment.
4. Removing all bail offences (committing an indictable offence while on bail, breaching bail conditions and failure to answer bail).
Quote from Aunty Donna Nelson, Veronica’s mother
“My Poccum’s pleas for help must be heard by all lawmakers to correct a bail system that is broken.
“I want these reforms to be made in honour of my daughter, Veronica, so lawmakers can always be reminded of how cruel and inhumane prison can be to our mob.
“Any reform falling short of our demands will not be supported by me, and cannot have my Poccum’s name associated with it.
“The Victorian Government has an opportunity to get this right once and for all – to keep our daughters out of these heartless prisons and to invest that money into where it is needed, rehabilitation and support for our mob.”
Quote from Uncle Percy Lovett, Veronica’s partner
“The Premier has got to change the bail laws, he just has to. They can’t just make small changes and then do nothing else. Everyone should be presumed innocent, they should have a right to get bail.
“Veronica shouldn’t have been in prison, she should have been at home. If it weren’t for the bail laws, Veronica wouldn’t have been in prison, she would be alive.
“I want to make sure no one else goes through what Veronica went through.
“Veronica deserves the justice she didn’t get that day. When I was in court with Veronica when she applied for bail – no one asked Veronica proper questions, no one listened to her, no one cared.”
Quote from Nerita Waight, CEO of VALS
“VALS is proud to be able to support Uncle Percy in his fight for justice. He wants to ensure that what happened to Veronica does not happen to anyone else and we will keep working until we get that change.
“Victoria’s bail laws have decimated the lives of so many people, families, and communities. One of the worst outcomes of the current bail laws is that it has driven a large increase in the number of Aboriginal women held on remand facing minor charges. These women are often victim-survivors of domestic violence and often primary carers for family and kin. Many of them would not get prison time if they were convicted of the charges they are facing.
“Veronica Nelson’s passing in Dame Phyllis Frost Centre prison must result in big changes to Victoria’s bail laws. The Victorian Government must not fail to meet the moment. This is the governments and society’s chance to say that we don’t believe in laws that decimate the lives of individuals and communities nor do we condone the cruelty that Veronica faced.”
Quote from Ali Besiroglu, Principal Lawyer at Robinson Gill Lawyers
“Veronica Nelson’s death in custody is a powerful and devastating reminder that Victoria’s bail system is in dire need of reform. The over-representation of Aboriginal women in our jails is a national disgrace. Urgent bail reform is essential to ensure that Aboriginal women are not unfairly targeted and criminalised by a system that is stacked against them.
“Thirty-two years ago, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recognised the need to revise any criteria which inappropriately restricted the granting of bail to Aboriginal people – yet we continue to imprison Aboriginal people more than ever before. We cannot continue on the current path.
“A mere watering down of the current bail legislation will be woefully inadequate and will not address the over-representation of First Nations people on remand. Nothing short of a drastic and urgent overhaul will suffice.”
Quote from Apryl Day, Executive Officer at Dhadjowa Foundation
“Veronica should be here today with her family. It’s time for the Victorian government to meaningfully address the racial injustice and overrepresentation of Aboriginal and and Torres Strait Islander people in the legal system.
“The Andrews government must immediately implement Poccum’s Law and reform the state’s bail laws. A continued lack of action will only leave our community members in danger of suffering the same discrimination as Veronica.”
Quote from Amala Ramarathinam, Acting Manager Lawyer at Human Rights Law Centre
“Victoria has some of Australia’s most dangerous and discriminatory bail laws. These laws are resulting in the injustice of women and children being denied the presumption of innocence, not because they pose a risk to the community, but because they themselves are at risk – of family violence, homelessness, economic disadvantage and mental illness.
“Poccum’s Law provides the Andrews government with a clear blueprint for bail reform to ensure that Victoria’s bail laws are fair, compliant with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, and will not needlessly discriminate against people experiencing disadvantage.
“The family of Veronica Nelson are leading the calls for fair bails laws with tremendous strength. They must be listened to, and the Andrews governments must act on their calls for change.
“If the Andrews Government is serious about addressing its botched bail laws and meeting its obligations under the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, it must implement Poccum’s Law in full. Without these wholesale changes, the Andrews government will continue to inflict unnecessary and preventable harm on people, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and put them at risk of dying in a police or prison cell.”
Patrick Cook, Acting Head of Policy, Communications and Strategy, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, 0417 003 910, firstname.lastname@example.org