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 CANs, 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.