Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

The Impact of the NSW Bail Act (2013) on trends in Bail and Remand in NSW

Don Weatherburn and Jacqueline Fitzgerald

Bureau Brief no. 106

Sydney, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, August 2015

Release Date: 19 August 2015

Media release

Full report: The Impact of the NSW Bail Act (2013) on trends in Bail and Remand in NSW [pdf 673kb]

Summary

In mid-2014 the Bail Act (2013) commenced in NSW with amendments commencing in January 2015.  From December 2014 to July 2015 the NSW remand population rose to an all-time high. The proportion of defendants refused bail by the courts in 2015 is comparable to levels seen in 2012 and 2013 suggesting that the new bail legislation is not responsible for the increase in people on remand. Alternative explanations are considered.    

Aim: To consider trends in bail and remand prior to and immediately following the implementation of the Bail Act (2013) on 20 May 2014 and the 'show cause' amendments on 28 January 2015.

Method: Descriptive analysis of trends in police use of Bail Court Attendance Notices, police bail refusal, court bail refusal and the remand population.

Results: The NSW Bail Act (2013) and the 'show cause' amendments subsequently made to it have not increased the police or court bail refusal rate above the level that prevailed in the two years prior to the introduction of the Act. This is despite the bail refusal rate for persons charged with 'show cause' offences being very high. It is not known whether the 'show cause' amendments have increased the likelihood of bail refusal for offences to which they apply or whether persons charged with these offences were always highly likely to be refused bail. The level of agreement between police and courts in relation to bail refusal has increased.

Following the introduction of the NSW Bail Act 2013, there was a sharp transient fall in the percentage of defendants refused bail by police and courts. The police bail refusal rate is now 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.

The remand population is much higher now than it was prior to the introduction of the NSW Bail Act (2013). The bail reforms at this stage appear to have made little if any contribution to this increase. Instead, it would appear to be due to two factors: (a) a sharp increase in January 2015 in the number of bail breaches that resulted in bail refusal (not the proportion) and (b) an increase in the total number of people with court proceedings commenced against them between December 2014 and March 2015.

Conclusion: The NSW Bail Act (2013) (as amended) does not appear at this stage to have increased the percentage of persons refused bail or the size of the remand population. Further monitoring and analysis will be necessary to confirm this.

Keywords: Bail, remand, Bail Act (2013), Bail Court Attendance Notice, unacceptable risk, show cause, prison population, bail refusal