Author Steve Yeong and Suzanne Poynton
Published April 2018
Report Type Crime and Justice Bulletin No. 212
Subject Bail / Remand; Evaluation reports
Keywords difference-in-differences, bail, remand, NSW Bail Act, show cause amendments, bail refusal, impact evaluation, legislative evaluation



To estimate the causal effect of the introduction of the Bail Act 2013 (NSW) on the likelihood of being bail refused by NSW bail authorities.


Data on bail hearings occurring between 1 January 2012 and 31 January 2017 in NSW were extracted from the NSW Police Force’s Computerised Operational Policing System (COPS) and the NSW Justicelink system for use in this analysis. Using a Difference-in-Differences (DiD) setup we compare bail decisions before and after the legislative changes for defendants accused of `minor offences’, which carry the general right to bail irrespective of the policy change, with defendants accused of all other non-minor offences. We explore the effect of the change on two separate outcomes: first, the probability that police refuse bail and, second, the probability that the courts refuse bail. We then proceed to employ various sample restrictions in order to estimate how the new legislation may have affected juveniles, women, Indigenous defendants, defendants with no prior convictions, and defendants with at least one prior prison sentence.


Overall, we find the legislative change to have increased the probability of the courts refusing bail to a defendant accused of a non-minor offence by 0.8 percentage points. Given the mean pre-policy refusal rate for these defendants was 7.3 per cent; this implies a relative increase of about 11 per cent. 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 off pre-policy levels.


The NSW Bail Act (2013 (as amended)) increased the probability that the average defendant is refused bail by the courts by about 11 per cent. This represents an additional 1,500 bail refusals by NSW courts in the 2-year post reform period.