Big increase in bail refusals

Release date: Monday 21 May 2018, 10.30am

Full report: Did the 2013 Bail Act increase the risk of bail refusal?, pdf 544 Kb and Appendix, pdf 325Kb


Reforms to the NSW Bail Act in 2014 and 2015 have increased the number and proportion of defendants ending up in custody, the NSW Bureau of­ Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has found.

BOCSAR analysed the outcomes of 501,212 bail hearings involving 318,559 individuals. The study controlled for other factors (e.g. more serious offences) that might have also caused an increase in bail refusal.

Overall, the NSW Bail Act (2013) (as amended) increased the probability of the courts refusing bail to a defendant accused of a non-minor offence by 0.8 percentage points.  A non-minor offence is one where there is no automatic right to bail. 

Given the mean bail refusal rate for these defendants before reforms to the NSW Bail Act was 7.3 per cent; this implies a relative increase of about 11 per cent. In absolute terms this represents an additional 1,500 bail refusals by NSW courts in the 2-year post reform period.

The impact of the legislation appears to be greater for high-risk defendants. Defendants with prior prison sentences are now about three percentage points more likely to be refused bail by the courts. In relative terms this represents an increase of 8.5 per cent on the bail refusal rate which prevailed before the Bail Act reforms.

Commenting on the findings the Executive Director of BOCSAR, Dr Don Weatherburn said that bail reform was one of several factors behind the recent growth in the NSW prison population.

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 8346-1100

Copies of the report: