West Lothian Criminal & Youth Justice Service assists the courts in a range of ways in the use of Bail. Here we explain what Bail is, and the ways that we work with the courts and with accused people to maximise the use of Bail rather than custodial remand.
What is Bail?
While a person is subject to continuing court proceedings, the court may decide that some controls should be placed on that person's behaviour, through the imposition of Bail Conditions. These may be simply the standard Bail Conditions which require the accused person to:
- Turn up for all the court hearings in the case (unless excused attendance)
- Not commit another offence while on bail
- Not interfere with witnesses or obstruct the course of justice
- Make themselves available for any reports the court has ordered
There is a range of more demanding conditions that can be added, including bail curfews, and restriction from certain addresses or areas.
Bail Information Service
If someone has been arrested and is appearing at court from police custody, the Procurator Fiscal (PF) has to decide if he or she would agree to bail being granted. If Bail is opposed (that is, the PF considers that the accused should be kept in custody while court proceedings go on), the Criminal & Youth Justice Service can assess the accused's situation. If it seems that there would be a reasonable likelihood that supervision by a Criminal Justice worker during the period of bail would reduce the risk of re-offending, Bail Supervision (see below) may be offered to the court as an option.
In some situations, there is little benefit in making a Bail assessment. We will not normally do so if the reasons for the PF opposing bail concentrate on:
- the seriousness of the current offence
- a high number of outstanding cases
- a record of not complying with court orders
Whenever possible, we will offer the information in a written report, which will be given to the Sheriff, defence solicitor and PF.
Bail Supervision Service
Courts may decide that instead of remanding a person in custody while court proceedings are going on, they will place them on Bail Supervision. This will not normally happen without the person having discussed this with a worker from the Criminal & Youth Justice Service (C&YJS) through the Bail Information Scheme.
The person on bail will be expected to see a worker from the C&YJS for a number of weeks set by the court. The purpose of this is to reduce the risk of getting into more trouble; during contact with the CJ worker, they will look at any problems in their life that increase the chance of re-offending (such as alcohol) and they will consider techniques for reducing the risk of this.
This is not an easy option - the requirement is to see the CJ worker at least three times a week, of which one appointment may be in the person's home. However, we have found so far that a good level of compliance with Bail Supervision may well improve someone's chances of receiving a supervisory sentence rather than custody when their case is finally dealt with.
West Lothian Council does not at present have Bail accommodation available, although we are considering ways of providing this.