As someone who was present when Magistrate O’Shane lifted the bail conditions for two Occupy Sydney protesters, two things ought to be corrected (”O’Shane weighs in on Occupy Sydney protests”, February 9).
Firstly, police may consider O’Shane’s decision controversial. But as someone who has been arrested myself and attended most hearings, I have found it is in keeping with decisions made by many other magistrates that have dispensed with the onerous bail conditions requested by police on Occupy Sydney protesters. According to the Bail Act, the primary function of bail is to ensure attendance at court and to prevent a serious crime being committed. Given that Occupy Sydney arrestees have an excellent court attendance record and their charges generally relate to offences that attract a maximum fine of $110, it is unremarkable that magistrates continue to dispense with bail, which in some cases have meant restrictions of a 2 kilometre radius within the CBD.
Secondly, the attempts by NSW Police to remove the demonstration have no legal grounding. The vast majority of the charges laid against Occupiers relate to allegedly contravening council notices concerning camping and staying overnight. None of these charges have so far been substantiated; those that have not been dismissed in the local court are awaiting the decision of a constitutional challenge against the actions of police.