Top cop’s shock call before he bails

POLICE Commissioner Ian Stewart has suggested officers should let some low-risk bail offenders get off scot-free, in a stunning move that has sparked criticism.

In a submission to the state's Sentencing Advisory Council, Mr Stewart said the Queensland Police Service was exploring a risk-based approach for police to exercise greater discretion in acting on contraventions of court-ordered bail.

The move has been criticised by the State Opposition, which said community safety always needed to be the No.1 priority.

"We've already seen too many offenders on bail or parole committing violent offences," shadow attorney-general David Janetzki said.

"Any grant of bail is a privilege that requires serious consideration by the court.

"Any offender that breaches bail has broken trust, not just the conditions of their bail."

But it comes amid a growing watchhouse crisis in Queensland, where children as young as 10 are being held in cells for weeks due to overcrowding, meaning there is limited space available for minor offences.

According to Queensland's Sentencing Advisory Council, sentenced bail offences more than doubled between 2006 and 2016.

The figure rose from 10,485 instances to 24,555, an increase that suggests the problem is becoming more common, according to researchers. Despite this, Mr Stewart suggests exploring greater discretion.

Outgoing Police Commissioner Ian Stewart has raised eyebrows with his plan.
Outgoing Police Commissioner Ian Stewart has raised eyebrows with his plan.


"This approach aims to reduce punitive responses to technical and low-risk breaches of bail while ensuring the ­integrity of arrangements for managing defendants in the community," he wrote.

"This may also contribute to a reduction in the proportion of offenders (particularly Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people) incarcerated for contravention of bail undertakings."

But Mr Stewart also called for a balanced approach.

"A collaborative, holistic approach encompassing health, housing, justice and specialist support services is ­integral in the effective case management of offenders, particularly those dealing with multiple complex needs," Mr Stewart wrote.

"Emphasis on early intervention and treatment of underlying causes of offending behaviour and pro-social pathways may subsequently reduce strain on resource capabilities for the QPS as well as the criminal justice system."

QPS did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said she would not comment until after considering all bail recommendations put forward to the Sentencing Advisory Council. "The Sentencing Advisory Council will consider input from all stakeholders - including police, the legal sector, victims groups and anyone who made a submission - before making a recommendation."