Melbourne deaths prompt new bail laws in Victoria

Melbourne, Jan 23 (IANS) The Australian state of Victoria has announced changes to its bail laws after five persons were killed when a man drove a car into pedestrians in Melbourne, a media report said on Monday.

The allegedly deliberate attack, which police said was not terror-related, happened after lunchtime on Friday.

Suspect Dimitrious Gargasoulas, 26, was released by a bail justice against the wishes of police five days earlier, the BBC reported.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said a new Night Court will be set up for magistrates to hear bail requests.

Thalia Hakin, 10, Matthew Si, 33, and Jess Mudie, 22, were killed in the attack. A three-month-old boy and a 25-year-old man, who have not been named, were also among the victims.

Two others remain in a critical condition, Andrews said on Monday.

“All of us feel it. How could this have happened? How could such a tragedy have come to our city? How could so many lives end and so many lives change forever?” he added.

The magistrates will rule on after-hours bail applications for people charged with violent crimes, Andrews said.

Until now, Victoria has been the only jurisdiction in Australia to use volunteer bail justices rather than on-call magistrates for after-hours hearings.

Andrews also said the entire bail system would be reviewed by former Supreme Court of Victoria Judge Paul Coghlan.

“We need to have a really close look at each and every element of our bail system, and we need to make profound change for the future to keep Victoria safe,” Andrews said.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton has expressed frustration about the handling of bail cases.

“I think everyone that works in the system has issues with it from time to time,” he told the Herald Sun newspaper at the weekend.

Ashton said Gargasoulas would face “multiple” murder charges once detectives were able to interview him.

The suspect was recovering from surgery after being shot in the arm by police before his arrest.

Police said Gargasoulas had been involved in an attack on his brother in a Melbourne suburb earlier on Friday.

Hospitals across Melbourne treated 37 persons injured in the Bourke Street mall incident. On Monday, 15 were still to be discharged.

As Australians mourned the tragedy, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joined Andrews in attending a makeshift memorial set up at the scene.

The victims will also be honoured with a public vigil in central Melbourne on Monday night.

Victoria’s justice system has faced criticism in recent years following several high-profile cases, including the killings of Irish woman Jill Meagher and young boy Luke Batty.

A maroon coloured sedan was being pursued by the police in Melbourne’s central business district (CBD) when the vehicle entered a pedestrian-only section of the famous Bourke Street shopping mall, driving erratically along the popular strip.

The incident occurred as thousands of tourists were in Melbourne for the Australian Open.