opinion

To the people our system has failed: We are so, so sorry.

The question of bail is a question of human rights.

Every person has the right to the presumption of innocence – or is “innocent until proven guilty” – as stated in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s about freedom and justice. The entitlement to a fair trial.

But people are dying and we have to ask why.

When people like 40-year-old mother Teresa Bradford is stabbed to death in her own home while her four children (the youngest is eight) are in the next room, we must wonder how, why, the man who killed her – her husband, 52-year-old David Bradford – was free to do so.

Mr Bradford had been in court less than three weeks prior to Tuesday – the day he murdered his estranged wife. He’d been in custody since November for assaulting and choking Ms Bradford. He had knocked her unconscious, gaffa taped her mouth shut, and attempted to strangle her.

Despite police opposing bail, he was released after 44 days in detention.

Teresa Bradford. Image via Facebook.

The conditions of Mr Bradford's bail were standard. He had four court orders prohibiting him from seeing his estranged wife. But he was also hell-bent on killing her. He wanted revenge. He was angry. He was overwhelmed by the prospect of a court case and the possibility of more time behind bars. He wasn't going to admit any of this. He might not have even planned it. Until he was released, and found he was free to break into Ms Bradford's Gold Coast home, wait in the kitchen, and stab her death. He then killed himself.

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One of the most common reasons women don't come forward and report domestic violence to police is fear of their partner seeking revenge, fear of things getting worse. "Teresa was on edge," a neighbour told SkyNews. "She was worried something would happen and it has."

We've seen this before.

Just weeks ago, six innocent Australians lost their lives to a crazed driver, James 'Jimmy' Gargasoulas, on Melbourne's Bourke Street. His alleged victims include 33-year-old Bhavita Patel, 10-year-old Thalia Hakin, 22-year-old Jess Mudie, 33-year-old Matthew Si, a 25-year-old man and, finally, three-month-old baby boy Zachary Bryant.

Gargasoulas was released on bail the weekend before his killing spree.

Jess Mudie. (Image supplied)

In October 2014, at the inquest into the death of her 11-year-old son Luke, Rosie Batty broke down and accused authorities of failing to protect him.

Her former partner - the father, and murderer, of her child - Greg Anderson was on bail the night he beat Luke to death with a cricket bat at Tyabb cricket ground in Victoria. Police were "astounded" Anderson was out on bail, and later admitted he "knew how to work the system".

Rosie Batty and her son Luke. Image via social.
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Just over two years ago, "Sydney Seige" perpertrator Haron Monis was also on bail when he walked into the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Martin Place in Sydney and held a group of innocent individuals hostage. The siege ended in gunfire. Two innocent people were killed.

There was Jill Meagher, the ABC journalist who was killed in September, 2012. She was walking home from after-work-drinks one Friday evening, just like so many of us after a long week in the office. Meagher was taken into an alleyway, off a main street in Brunswick, Melbourne, by a man she did not know. She was raped and strangled. Her body was missing for six days.

The man-she-did-not-know was 41-year-old Adrian Ernest Bayley who was on parole at the time. Bayley had a long, horrific history of sexual violence. He raped two women when he was 19; he raped five prostitutes over six months in 2000 - he trapped his victims in his vehicle and repeatedly assaulted them; he breached his parole by punching a man and served three-months in prison in 2012; he was released again and this time, only months later, Meagher was his victim. Bayley begged for the death penalty when he was arrested.

Jill Meagher was killed in Melbourne in 2012. Image via social media.
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In 2015, there was Melbourne schoolgirl Masa Vukotic. She was 17 and one day in March she went to school, as usual. She had dinner with her family, as usual. She went for her evening walk, as usual. On her walk she was accosted by Sean Price, 31, who pushed her into the nearby shrubbery and stabbed her 49 times with a kitchen knife.

Who was Price? He was unknown to the victim. He was on bail over death threats. He was under a court supervision order and he had a long criminal history of sexual violence against women. He told prison guards, during a stint in Port Phillip prison: "When I get out I'm gonna ... slit kids' throats."

Still, he was just as free to walk the Melbourne streets as his victim, Vukotic, who will never finish high school.

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Masa Vukotic.

In the UK, 2011 research out of the Ministry of Justice found that every ten days a murder is committed by a criminal out on bail. In Australia, the numbers aren't that high but they're high enough.

The system in Australia means police can grant or refuse bail after arrest. If police refuse bail, the individual can appeal to a senior police officer and, following this, a magistrate.

There used to be "a presumption of bail" across Australia, which meant a person was entitled to bail unless the police or prosecution made a strong case against it.

Now, in certain states such as New South Wales, there is a presumption against bail in several instances. For example, when the case involves sexual assault of children; the use of a firearm; trafficking high quantities of drugs; serious personal violence (such as the case of Teresa Bradford); if the offence was committed while the accused was on bail or parole (such as the case of Jill Meagher); or if the alleged offence carries a potential life sentence.

But Bradford and Meagher were not killed in New South Wales.

Today, Queensland's Attorney-General Yvette D'At told media that the State Government will review the system of bail for accused domestic violence offenders.

"I think it's important we have a good look at what other jurisdictions are doing, the type of offences that that relates to, and how that might relate to some of the serious domestic violence offences that are in our Criminal Code," she told the ABC.

Yes, the issues around bail are complex.

Yes, the presumption of innocence is a human right. It should not be jeopardised or overlooked.

But, surely, in cases like these - where police have opposed bail, and the alleged perpetrator has a long and terrifying history of violence and abuse - we also have the right to ask "why?". Why wasn't the opposition to bail upheld? 

We are entitled to echo the cries of Luke Batty's mother; of Teresa Bradford's children; of the families of the Bourke Street victims, of Jill Meagher's husband; and of Masa Vukotic's parents; and to ask how the system failed.

Because, most certainly, the pointless death of these innocent victims, these wives and mothers and sons and daughters, is a failure.

And to the people who have lost their lives because of that, we should be so, so sorry.