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Victoria to dump minor offence reverse-onus bail test

Minor offenders seeking bail will no longer have to prove they don't pose a risk to the community, with the Victorian government unveiling plans to strip back the state's tough laws.

Under the proposed reforms, the contentious reverse-onus test for bail would not apply to low-level offenders and the unacceptable risk test refined so the potential for minor reoffending cannot be used to refuse it.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes conceded bail was not working as it should but said the Andrews government had no plans to weaken laws for those who pose a serious risk to people's safety.

"Victorians know the difference between violent and non-violent crime - our current bail laws however don't properly distinguish between the two," she said in a statement on Sunday.

"What is under consideration seeks to strike the right balance but the next few months will be crucial as we consult with Aboriginal Victorians, victims groups, the legal sector, Victoria Police and others on how to make these changes work."

Bail laws were strengthened after James Gargasoulas drove into a busy Bourke Street Mall in January 2017, killing six people and injuring dozens more. He was on bail at the time.

Previously, the reverse onus test was only used for the most serious offenders but was expanded to cover those caught repeatedly carrying out low-level crimes like shoplifting.

Offenders can also be denied bail if they present an "unacceptable risk" to the safety or welfare of any person, among other things.

The changes have disproportionately impacted Aboriginal Victorians and women, and led to more unsentenced people being locked up.

In January, Coroner Simon McGregor found the death of Indigenous woman Veronica Nelson in custody in 2020 was preventable and called for an urgent review of the bail act.

The government intends to amend the legislation to mean bail decision-makers must consider when an applicant identifies as Aboriginal and introduce Aboriginal child-specific decision-making principles.

Legislation to reform bail laws, child protection and youth justice is set to be brought before Victorian parliament in the first half of this year, Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed last month.

Other aspects of the bill will be detailed in coming months following further consultation, including with the Aboriginal Justice Caucus (AJC) and other Indigenous groups.

Former youth justice minister Ben Carroll told reporters on Sunday the reforms were a "priority" but AJC co-chair Chris Harrison said the government was warned about the impact of the bail law changes following the Bourke Street tragedy.

"We spoke about how it would affect Aboriginal people and how it would lock up more," he told the state's Aboriginal truth-telling inquiry on Friday.

"It's only now being mentioned as an area of appetite by the premier."

Liberty Victoria credited Ms Symes for admitting the government "got the balance wrong" but maintained an unacceptable risk test should be the only threshold for bail.

"If an alleged offender, entitled to the presumption of innocence, is not an unacceptable risk of committing a serious offence, failing to appear at court, or interfering with witnesses, then there is no proper basis to hold them in custody pending hearing or trial," it tweeted.

Victorian Deputy Liberal Leader David Southwick said the opposition would wait for more details on the proposed changes before formalising its position.

"We've got to get this stuff right," he said.