Thousands of people accused of low-level crime could be locked up if they breach bail under a plan by Victoria’s Liberal-Nationals alternative government.
Labor and the opposition on Monday were locked in battle over bail laws amid ongoing disagreement about whether Hassan Khalif Shire Ali should have been free to walk the streets when he launched a deadly knife attack in central Melbourne.
The 30-year-old was facing routine traffic offences and Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said granting bail for driving while suspended was “a pretty straightforward decision”.
“He was never going to be remanded on drive-while-suspended offences,” Mr Ashton told radio 3AW.
“If we were going to be remanding everyone for drive whilst suspended, there wouldn’t be enough prisons to hold everyone.”
The revelation that Shire Ali was on bail has sparked a political storm a week out from a state election.
Shadow attorney-general John Pesutto said Labor had broken a 2015 promise to fix Victoria’s bail laws.
“Unless you fix this problem we are going to continue to see an escalation in the types of crimes committed by people who don’t respect bail,” he told ABC radio.
“We’ve got thousands of people in this position. We don’t know what risks the Victorian people are facing. We need to get bail under control.
“If you breach your bail, you will go to jail. That’s where we are at.”
Asked where all the suspects would be held in custody, Mr Pesutto said “provisions” would be made.
Attorney-General Martin Pakula insisted the government had already taken action to address bail laws and rejected the opposition’s proposal.
“[Mr Pesutto] is suggesting that every drunk, every vagrant, every homeless person, every drug addict, every person with a driving offence who might miss a police appointment or a court hearing would go to jail before they’ve been convicted and for offences that would never accrue jail time,” he said.
“[Shire Ali] had no history of violence and he would not have been remanded under any regime for driving offences.”
Premier Daniel Andrews admitted learning of Shire Ali’s bail status the day after the attack, which killed restaurateur Sisto Malaspina, 74, and injured two other men.
Somali-born Shire Ali, whose passport was cancelled in 2015 amid concerns he would try to go to Syria to fight for Islamic State, was shot by police and died in hospital.
Even if Shire Ali was flagged as a person of interest to security agencies, it would not have affected whether he got bail.
“Being a person of interest is not a criminal offence,” Mr Ashton said.
Mr Pesutto said Shire Ali’s bail status should have been revealed as soon as possible after the tragedy.
“It’s not the most important issue in this case, because we lost an innocent life … but this failure to disclose is a serious issue. We should have been told.”