When someone is charged with an offence they have a presumed right to bail.
This means that they should be released from the police station ‘on bail’ until the court appearance unless there are sufficient grounds to believe that they will commit further crimes or that witnesses or victims may be threatened. The police may also refuse bail if they believe that the person may not turn up for court or they have broken bail terms in the past.
If the police custody officer has reasonable grounds for believing that any of these circumstances may occur the person charged can be held in custody until their court hearing. If the person is later found to be guilty the time spent in custody before trial will be deducted from the sentence.
Conditional or unconditional bail?
Bail may be conditional or unconditional. Conditional bail means that the person has to abide by certain conditions. These conditions may require that the person lives at a certain address or does not contact certain people. The police may also impose a curfew or take away their passport and may require that they report to the police station at set times. Unconditional bail has no requirements beyond attending court on their hearing date. Bail may be refused if the police feel the person charged will commit another offence, is a risk in the community or previously broken bail conditions.
What happens if bail conditions are broken?
If a person breaks any of the conditions of their bail, the police can arrest them and they will be brought before the next sitting of the local Magistrates’ Court within 24 hours. Magistrates may then refuse any further bail applications. Bail may be refused if the police feel the person charged will commit another offence, is a risk in the community or has previously broken bail conditions.
What if they don’t attend court on the specified date?
If the person on bail fails to attend court without reasonable excuse they commit a separate offence under the Bail Act 1976. A warrant will be issued for their arrest.