Victoria set to overhaul strict bail laws

Victoria will overhaul its strict bail laws amid growing calls for reform from MPs and legal rights groups.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes confirmed on Wednesday that legislative changes for bail were currently being discussed but stopped short of detailing what the review would entail.

"It's all about getting the balance right between community safety, ensuring that serious offenders are kept away from the public but recognising some of our most vulnerable people in the community can be caught up unnecessarily in the justice system," she told reporters.

"I'll have more to say once I've gone through proper processes."

She said the changes were proposed for this year.

Victoria's bail laws are widely considered to be among the toughest in the country.

The state government made changes to the Bail Act in 2018 under expert advice in response to the 2017 Bourke Street massacre.

James Gargasoulas was on bail when he drove into a busy Bourke Street Mall, killing six people and injuring dozens of others.

Ms Symes said while Victoria's existing bail laws had been effective in some instances, amendments were needed.

"What we do know is that it's having a good impact on ensuring that serious offenders are not receiving bail that are being put in custody to protect the community," she said.

"But we have had examples of low-level offending, shoplifting, for example, where perhaps that person is not a risk to community safety and is there an opportunity to have further discretion to ensure that bail might be more appropriate in those instances?"

It comes as coroner Simon McGregor prepares to release findings next week into the death of Indigenous woman Veronica Nelson.

The 37-year-old died in her cell at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre in January 2020 after being arrested three days earlier on suspicion of shoplifting and denied bail.

It was reported by The Age on Tuesday that Mr McGregor will find Ms Nelson's death was preventable and she was treated cruelly and inhumanely.

Among his recommendations is expected to be a call to reform Victoria's bail laws.

Since the Bail Act was amended in January 2018, Corrections Victoria figures show the proportion of unsentenced people in Victorian prisons has risen from 34.1 per cent to 40.8 per cent in December.

There were more unsentenced Aboriginal people in Victoria's prisons than those sentenced for eight of the first nine months of last year, according to the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service.