No Ordinary Time

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It’s sometimes said that one man’s loss is another man’s profit, and that’s evidently true, even in these strange and troubled times. Just ask all those previously-struggling toilet paper and face mask makers.

One curious example has even arisen in the criminal courts.

Earlier this month an ACT Supreme Court Judge granted bail to a woman, previously remanded in custody on serious criminal charges, after ruling that the impact of the COVID-19 virus constituted a ‘change in circumstances’, requiring the issue of bail to be revisited.

Having done so, His Honour concluded the current pandemic justified the defendant’s release because ACT prison authorities have indefinitely suspended all prisoner visits, effectively cutting prisoners off from all outside contact.

The Victorian Supreme Court adopted a similar position in the recent case of Ms Samantha Broes. Ten days ago Ms Broes’ lawyers successfully argued that the disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis potentially meant their client would spend more time in custody awaiting her trial than any sentence she was likely to get if found guilty. The Judge agreed, and further observed Ms Broes would likely suffer the additional significant detriment of being deprived of all contact with her family as a result of prison lockdowns.

In granting bail to Ms Broes, His Honour aptly and saliently observed:

‘Were this an ordinary application, there was an argument to be put that the applicant did not establish exceptional circumstances. However, this is not an ordinary application in an ordinary time.’  

Alex Somers

Criminal Lawyer, Queensland

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