Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville has criticised a Children’s Court over its decision to grant bail to a teenager who allegedly assaulted a police officer.
The 17-year-old was on parole at the time of the alleged attack at Highpoint Shopping Centre, in Melbourne’s west, on Boxing Day.
Ms Neville said the courts should have listened to police on the matter.
“They opposed strongly this person getting bail and the courts need to explain how on Earth they could make a decision so contrary to what police view was,” she said.
She called on the courts to explain the decision.
“I respect the independence of the court, and it’s a fundamental part of our democracy, but you want that independence, if you believe strongly in your decision making, it’s incumbent on you to share that information,” she said.
“Just like I have to justify decisions I make, so too should the courts back to the community.
“If they’re concerned that politicians are intervening too much in their procedures, well talk to the community about exactly how and on what basis they make decisions.”
Tougher bail laws are due to come into effect in July after passing State Parliament last year.
But Opposition Attorney-General John Pesutto said the Andrews Government should have acted earlier to introduce tougher bail laws for young offenders.
He said the Opposition urged the Government to implement tougher bail laws two years ago.
“We warned Mr Andrews back in 2015 — do not weaken bail laws for young offenders who breach their bail. Mr Andrews and his Minister ignored all of those very reasonable calls,” he said.
Ms Neville said she understood frustration that the laws had not been introduced earlier, but she said time was needed for additional resources to be brought in to make them work.
“We need to make sure these laws work … I’d love to have them in right now, right this second, but we need to make sure that people are across it, that people are able to implement it … we need to allow these changes to be put in place and work properly,” she said.
Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said police officers were “shaking their heads” at the decision to grant bail.
“People like this shouldn’t be able to go out and potentially risk the welfare of other officers in the community, or other members of the community more broadly,” he said.
He said the officer in question was back at work, but “felt let down” by the decision.