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The impact of the Bail Act (2013) on trends in bail and remand

Full report: The impact of the Bail Act (2013) on trends in bail and remand, pdf 673Kb

Embargo: 9.30am Wednesday 19 August, 2015

Reforms to the NSW Bail Act (2013) (including the 'show cause' amendments [1]) have had no impact on the NSW remand population, according to a new report released today by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).

Instead, the report attributes the rapid build-up in the State's remand population (up 32% between July 2013 and June 2015) to a combination of two factors: an increase in the number of people arrested for serious offences and an increase in the number of people imprisoned for breaching their bail conditions.

According to BOCSAR, the introduction of the NSW Bail Act (2013) was accompanied by a sharp fall in the percentage of defendants refused bail by police and courts. That fall, however, was quickly reversed.

The police bail refusal rate is now sitting at around two percentage points lower than it was in 2012 and 2013. The court bail refusal rate has returned to the level that prevailed in 2012 and 2013.

One benefit of the NSW Bail Act (2013) is that it appears to have increased the level of consistency between police and court bail decision making. 

In the 12 months between June 2013 and May 2014 (when the Bail Act commenced), courts on average refused bail to 48.5 per cent of those refused bail by police. In the following 12 months (between June 2014 and May 2015), that figure had risen to an average of 53.7 per cent.

It also appears that those charged with offences which fall into the 'show cause' category of the NSW Bail Act are, as intended, very unlikely to get bail.

When the 'show cause' amendment was first introduced, 80 per cent of defendants charged with 'show cause' offences were refused bail. That figure is now up to 88 per cent.

Commenting on the findings, the director of BOCSAR, Dr Don Weatherburn, said that the initial transient fall in police and court bail refusal rates may have been due to lack of familiarity with the new risk assessment procedures under the Act.

"It is also important to understand that you will never get complete consistency between court and police bail decisions because, when a matter reaches court, a more thorough investigation can be undertaken to assess a person's suitability for bail."

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 8346 1100
Copies of the report: www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au

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[1] See page 2 of the report for an explanation of 'show cause' offences. The Appendix to the report contains a complete list.