When a person is charged with criminal offences in Victoria and applies for bail, the court can only refuse bail if there is an unacceptable risk that cannot be mitigated by appropriate bail conditions. When a person applies for bail, they or their lawyer should propose bail conditions that address any concerns the court is likely to have. The bail conditions should be reasonable and no more onerous than necessary.
Purpose of bail conditions
Under the Bail Act 1977, bail conditions can only be imposed to reduce the likelihood that an accused person may:
- fail to answer bail by attending court;
- commit an offence while on bail;
- endanger the safety or welfare of members of the public;
- interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice.
There are two types of bail conditions that courts can impose: “conduct” and “financial”. Alternatively, the court can release an accused person on their own undertaking to attend court, without any other conditions.
Conduct Bail Conditions
Conduct conditions are bail conditions that require a person to do or refrain from doing something. Some of the common conduct conditions are set out below.
Reporting to a police station
This condition may be imposed where there are concerns that the defendant is not going to remain at their address or where they are considered a flight risk ie there is a risk they will try to leave the jurisdiction without finalising the charges.
How often it is reasonable to require a person to report to the local police will depend on factors such as how far from the person’s residence the police station is and to what extent it will interfere with their commitments, such as employment and care of children.
A person may be required to report to the police, weekly, twice weekly or daily and may be required to do so at particular times of day.
Residing at a particular address
It is very common for a person’s bail conditions to specify the address they must live at. If the address proposed is the residence of another person, such as a partner or parent, that person’s consent will generally need to be obtained.
Not leaving their address during certain times of the day (ie. a curfew)
A curfew is a bail condition that is sometimes considered appropriate, particularly where the defendant is a juvenile and the alleged offending occurred in a public place at night. Being required to observe a curfew is seen as reducing the opportunity for further offending and is often imposed in conjunction with a condition that the police may attend the residence at random to ensure the person is complying with the curfew.
Not contacting specified persons
A bail condition that the defendant is not to contact specified persons is common where there is a concern for the safety of the alleged victim or where the offending is alleged to have occurred in company with co-offenders. The defendant may be required not to contact the alleged victim or the alleged co-offenders while on bail. This may be to minimise the chances of re-offending or to minimize the chances of interfering with witnesses.
Where the defendant is considered a flight risk, they may be required to surrender their passport while on bail. This may be because they have strong ties to other countries, because they are a person who travels often or because they have significant financial means.
Not attending certain places at certain times
Where the defendant is alleged to have committed offences in a particular place, they may be made subject to a bail condition that they refrain from attending this place while on bail – for example, a particular pub or nightclub.
Not consuming alcohol or drugs
Where the alleged offending is drug or alcohol related, the defendant may be required to abstain from alcohol or drugs while on bail. They may be required to comply with breath or urine tests to verify their compliance with this condition.
Attending and participating in a bail support service
A person who is granted bail may be required to engage with a bail support service to help them to comply with their bail conditions. This may be a service that can assist with drug and alcohol issues, mental health issues or accommodation. It may involve counselling or day programs.
Financial Bail Conditions
Financial conditions are bail conditions that require an accused or a suitable person (often a family member) to agree to forfeit a specified amount of money if the accused person does not attend court as required. Financial conditions may be imposed with or without conduct conditions.
The court must have regard to the accused person’s means (or the means of the person putting up the bail surety) when considering whether to impose a financial condition at all, as well as the amount. If the person does not have sufficient means to satisfy a financial condition, the court must consider whether any other condition would achieve the same purpose.
Juveniles and bail conditions
When the person applying for bail is a juvenile, the Children’s Court may consider it appropriate to impose more restrictive bail conditions than it would for an adult. These may include conditions such as attending school every day, obeying a curfew and not drinking alcohol.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.