Australia needs a national database containing the criminal and bail histories of every offender in the country if prosecutors and police are to avoid the type of oversight that allowed the Sydney siege gunman to remain at liberty, the coroner's court has heard.
In the year leading up to the attack on the Lindt Cafe in December last year, gunman Man Haron Monis was granted bail on a string of serious charges, including accessory to murder and 40 counts of sexual and indecent assault.
The inquest into the siege has heard that on each occasion investigating police and solicitors did not realise that some of the offences Monis had been charged with occurred while he was on bail for sending offensive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers – a Commonwealth offence.
Had this information been before the court, Monis may have been denied bail.
While counsel representing the families of two siege victims have suggested that police could and should have simply "put two and two together", the inquest heard on Tuesday that there was a nation-wide problem with the flow of information between law enforcement agencies across state boundaries and between the state and Commonwealth jurisdictions.
Experienced DPP solicitor Larissa Michalko told the court it was "very, very difficult to get that kind of information".
"In NSW it's difficult to get interstate criminal histories and difficult to get Commonwealth histories," she said.
"It's the same in the ACT, and slightly worse in Victoria. There are differences between histories in different states – often criminal histories don't include the bail conditions applying to the accused person. A bail report will have that information but they're often not admissible [in court]."
Counsel representing the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, David Buchanan SC asked Ms Michalko whether such issues might be addressed by a national database containing offender's criminal histories.
"If there was a national database containing criminal histories, including bail conditions that you could access with the click of a button, how would you respond to that?" Mr Buchanan asked
"That would be a godsend," Ms Michalko replied.
Later, a senior officer supervising the team which investigated Monis' sexual offending told the inquest that he believed Monis was part of a "flurry" of accused persons who had deliberately timed their bail applications until the state's bail laws were relaxed in May 20, 2014.
Under these changes – which were subsequently overridden by further amendments – there was a presumption in favour of the accused's right to be released on bail.
Detective Sergeant Eugene Stek said he and other police had hoped that he would be refused bail, that he was "not surprised" when this was not the case.
"The law favoured accused persons in custody," he said.
"There were applications held back until the new law came into play and that continued until the Bail Act was amended."
The inquest continues.