Bail is the term used when a person is under suspicion or has been charged with a criminal offence but is released from police custody until he or she next appears in court or at a police station.
Generally, in order to grant bail the police or courts will require certain security to be given or certain conditions met.
Essentially, the principles of putting a defendant on bail are to try to ensure the defendant returns for the court hearing or to the police station whilst in the meantime the police will carry out their investigations.
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Two types of bail
There are two types of bail:
Police bail – If a person has been arrested on suspicion of a crime or if they have been charged but have yet to appear in court they may be allowed bail by the police.
However, if a suspect or defendant leaves the police station certain restrictions or conditions may be required while they are on police bail. The defendant will be also given a bail return date to return to the police station.
Please be aware being given police bail can occur more than once if the police require extra time to investigate the crime.
If bail is granted by the police after the suspect is charged this is still categorised as police bail.
Court Bail – If a defendant is granted bail by a court covering any time away from court between hearings this is called “court bail”.
When the defendant has been charged the courts have far greater powers to refuse bail. However, the defendant has not at this stage been found guilty of anything and so cannot simply be imprisoned until a court hearing unless they pose a danger to a member of the public or there is a real concern the defendant will not show up for the court hearing.
Justification for bail
The justification for the process of bail is essentially a practical one, keeping in mind the principles of justice.
In terms of police bail, it is important that the police are given time to investigate the criminal allegations and then have the opportunity to try to ensure the defendant returns to the police station so they can question them after the investigations.
In regard to court bail it is clearly important that a defendant is not allowed to ‘go on the run’ and miss the court hearings or try to intimidate certain witnesses, and yet if there is little danger of this and the defendant has not yet been proven guilty, he should be released at least temporarily.
Conditions of bail
If granted bail, depending on the circumstances around the possible crime and the defendant’s personal situation, certain conditions may be set by the police or by the court. Bail conditions include:
- remaining at a certain address
- remaining indoors at a certain address at particular times of the day
- not contacting certain people
Breaking the conditions of bail could see a defendant placed on remand in prison.
Why would I not be granted bail?
In certain instances bail may not be granted due to:
- the police being unsure of the defendant’s home address
- you need to be protected or to protect someone else
- the police or court think you may not attend court
Bail system in the news
Bail has been in the news recently due to a particular case which stated that police should not be allowed to release suspects on bail for more than 96 hours.
This has caused a huge backlash, as the police require far more time than this to carry out their investigations on most occasions.
The suspects would then have to be arrested again but only if “new evidence” appeared.
It is likely that the government will try to prevent this ruling from setting a precedent, as it is widely felt that this will inhibit the police doing their job.