Aim: To describe the type of bail conditions imposed on defendants in New South Wales (NSW) and the nature of bail breaches.
Method: The Bureau’s Court Data Warehouse (compiled from JusticeLink data) provided data on bail conditions imposed on defendants at first court bail appearances (July 2014 – April 2017) and bail breaches established in 2016. The NSW Police Force’s Computerised Policing Operational System (COPS) provided additional information about offences committed whilst on bail.
Results: The most frequent bail conditions imposed at first court bail appearances were related to ‘residence’ (30.6%) and ‘reporting to police’ (20.3%). In 2016, 7,071 breaches of bail were established by the court. The most common bail breaches involved ‘reporting to police’ (18.1%), ‘curfew’ (9.3%) and ‘residence’ (8.6%), but 22 per cent of bail breach orders had no information regarding the condition(s) breached. Almost half of these orders had ‘further offences’ proceeded against recorded in COPS; the most frequent being ‘breach Apprehended Domestic Violence Order’, ‘domestic violence related assault’ and ‘other driving offences’. For 35 per cent of orders, defendants had only breached their bail conditions; for 27 per cent of orders, defendants had only committed further offence(s); for 26 per cent of orders, defendants had done both; and the remaining 12 per cent of orders had no information about bail breach type. While bail was refused for one-fifth of orders where defendants had only breached their bail conditions, this increased to 39 per cent of those who also committed further offences, and to 48 per cent of those who had only committed further offences. This significant bail refusal effect was found after controlling for the defendants’ age, gender, Indigenous status and location.
Conclusion: Just over half of the bail breaches involved further offending whilst on bail. This was strongly predictive of bail refusal. Improvements could be made in the recording of bail breach information.