Custody and bail

If a person is charged with a crime they can either be released on police bail, or detained in police custody.

Being held in custody

When a person is charged with a crime and held in police custody they must be brought to the first available court for the court to decide whether they should continue to be held (remanded) in custody.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) must consider the charges and consider if there is still a need to keep the person in custody. The PPS will ask the court to remand someone in custody if they consider that there is a risk of the defendant -

  • running away
  • interfering with or threatening witnesses
  • perverting the course of justice
  • committing further offences
  • being a threat to public order

If a defendant is remanded in custody they will be kept in prison and required to appear in court.

Bail

Bail often means a defendant enters into a recognisance (a bond between them and the court) to pay money if they break the conditions of bail. Anyone providing a guarantee (or surety) may also have to enter into a recognisance. These are people who are prepared to enter into a bond and lose money if the defendant breaks their bail conditions.

If a person is charged and released by the police on bail, the first court appearance must be within 28 days from the date of the charge. This usually takes place in the magistrates’ court, where the District Judge will consider if there is enough evidence to connect the defendant to the crime.

If a defendant is held in prison, they may apply for bail again, but usually only when there has been a change in circumstances since they last applied for bail. The defendant can also apply for compassionate bail for a short period for reasons such as a family funeral. After this, they cannot make any more applications unless they can persuade the judge that something about the case, or their personal circumstances, has changed.The judge must grant bail unless the prosecution can show that there is a specific risk.

Bail conditions

If a defendant is granted bail by the court, the public prosecutor will consider whether any bail conditions would help address any risks identified, such as

  • the defendant has to be at the approved address between certain times (this is called a curfew)
  • the defendant may not be allowed to go to certain places, see certain people or drink alcohol
  • electronic tagging

If the court grants bail even though the PPS has argued against it, the public prosecutor may appeal. This appeal will be heard by the High Court.

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