After the recent tragedy in Victoria there has been a lot of scrutiny on the Victorian bail system and how it works. Our system is very different to Victoria’s and it’s important to understand what bail is and how it works. Bail is a written promise that a person will come to court on the date provided in order to face the charges against them. This written document must be signed by the person who is released on bail and failing to sign it can lead to a warrant being issued for their arrest. Bail is a very important process to understand and obtaining
In Queensland, for most minor offences police will grant what is known as “watch house bail”. These are circumstances where they do not consider the offender to be a risk to the community or at risk of not attending their court date. In circumstances where the offence is especially serious, there are extenuating circumstances or where the police believe the person may attempt to flee, police are permitted to hold the accused in custody for a reasonable time or until they can be brought before a magistrate.
If the matter goes to court, in Queensland people will generally receive bail unless the prosecution can show that there is an unacceptable risk of the offender committing additional offences or failing to appear at the next court date. In some circumstances the accused may be put in a “show cause” position, meaning that they have to show why they should be allowed on bail instead of being kept in jail. This makes it more difficult to get bail and is more likely to happen when there has been a violent offence, an offence committed whilst already on bail or a person is charged with failing to appear in court.
Usually bail comes attached with conditions that must be abided by. These can include but are not limited to; regularly reporting to a police station, living at a particular address, agreeing not to commit any offences, or agreeing not to have contact with or interfere with any witnesses in the matter. Failing to meet any of these criteria can result in a warrant being issued for the accused’s arrest and they may face additional charges for breaching bail conditions in addition to their existing charges.
In some circumstances the court may require a ‘surety’, that is they require that someone puts up an amount of money or property that will be forfeited if the accused does not show up at their next court date or if the bail conditions are broken.
If an application for bail is made and denied, usually the accused will be required to remain in jail until such a time as the matter can be resolved. A second application can usually only be made if there have been material change in circumstances. For example if a person suffers a significant injury whilst in prison they may be granted bail even if they were denied the first time. An exception to this is if a matter is first heard in the Magistrates Court, but then is moved up to a higher court such as the District or Supreme courts. At this time another application can be made. But a second refusal will mean that the accused will have to remain in jail until the matter is finalised.
To give yourself the best chance it’s always better to have a solicitor make an application for bail on your behalf and if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to make an application give Howden Saggers Lawyers a call on (07) 5528 2344.