Appearing in court by video-link has no impact on the chance of being granted bail

Release date: 10.30am Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Link to report summary

New research by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) finds no evidence that appearing in court via audio-visual link (AVL) disadvantages defendants’ in their access to bail.

Over the last decade there has been a steady increase in defendants in custody appearing in court via AVL from a Correctional Centre rather than appearing in-person.  Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, AVL was already used in a third of all first bail hearings in NSW.  Since the pandemic, however, this has increased dramatically, and most bail proceedings currently proceed via AVL.

AVL use in courts offers considerable logistical and efficiency benefits for Justice agencies including reduced defendant transport and improved security.  However, concerns have been raised that the use of this technology could disadvantage defendants. 

A new BOCSAR study considers whether defendants who appear in court via AVL receive less favourable bail decisions than those who appear in person.

To estimate the impact of appearing via AVL on bail outcomes, we compared individuals who had their first court bail hearing via AVL at two NSW Correctional Centres, Amber Laurel and Surry Hills, between Jan 2018 and Feb 2020, with similar individuals who had their first court bail hearing over the same period. 

Using three different statistical approaches we found no meaningful difference in the likelihood of bail refusal for defendants appearing via AVL at their first court bail hearing compared with those appearing in person.

Jackie Fitzgerald, Executive Director at BOCSAR, welcomed the findings.  “Equity of access is an important underpinning of the criminal justice system.  Given the high stakes involved for defendants subjected to judicial remand decisions it is reassuring that AVL does not appear to impact judicial decisions.  This is particularly important given the increased use of AVL in modern court settings.”

Further enquiries: Jackie Fitzgerald, Executive Director 0423 139 687


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