VICTORIA’S chief magistrate has defended the court’s decision to bail an Echuca man accused of child sex offences.
In a letter to the Riv, Peter Lauritsen responded to last week’s article which revealed an 18-year-old man charged with two counts of sexual penetration of a child under 12 years and use of a carriage service to produce and transmit child exploitation material was bailed in a closed hearing at Bendigo Magistrates Court.
Police, who attempted to remand the man in custody, will allege the man used mobile application Snapchat to transmit abuse of a child under the age of 12 years to another user.
The Riv contacted Mr Lauritsen to ask how someone facing such heinous charges was released on bail despite police opposition.
Mr Lauritsen advised us he was unable to comment as the matter was still before the court and refused to provide details on the bail conditions.
However, Mr Lauritsen has now revealed in his letter, ‘‘the grant of bail was subject to strict conditions including reporting to police and a curfew at home’’.
‘‘Second, a family violence intervention order was made with restrictive conditions,’’ he wrote.
‘‘Obeying its conditions was made a condition of the grant of bail so that disobedience could lead to the revocation of bail.’’
He also stated in his letter that the court was closed ‘‘to avoid causing undue distress or embarrassment to the complainant’’.
This case comes ahead of sweeping new bail reforms, which include presumption against bail for rape and sexual offences involving children, expected to come into effect in July.
However, Shadow attorney-general John Pesutto said the Victorian Government was continuing to put off bail changes.
Mr Pesutto said the government last week voted down Liberal Nationals amendments to the Bail Amendment (stage two) Bill 2017 which would have seen bail changes start by March 30 rather than October 1.
‘‘The Liberal Nationals’ amendments would also have brought forward the commencement of the Bail Amendment (Stage One) Bill 2017 from July 1 to March 30,’’ he said.
‘‘Although the government has said today that certain of the stage one changes will commence on May 21, that’s still two months longer than the amendment proposed.
‘‘Reform of our bail system is one of the most urgent challenges facing Victoria, yet (premier) Daniel Andrews has continued to delay bail changes.’’