Evaluation of the Impact of Bail Reforms on Summary Justice Reform

This report presents the findings from the Evaluation of the Impact of Bail Reforms on Summary Justice Reform. The research formed part of a wider package of work to evaluate Summary Justice Reform (SJR) in Scotland as a whole. The aim of the research was to evaluate how far the reforms to bail had met both their specific policy objectives as well as how far they had contributed to the overarching aims and objectives of SJR.


Core Approach

The evaluation comprised a mixed methods approach that combined analysis of secondary data, collection of primary qualitative data from interviews and questionnaires, and a parallel cost-benefit analysis exercise. A staged approach was taken so that findings from early stages could inform the design and content of the later stages.

Secondary Data Analysis

Secondary data analysis focussed mainly on data from the Criminal Proceedings in Scottish Courts dataset as well as Key Performance Indicator (KPI) data from the Scottish Government's Criminal Justice Board Management Information System (CJBMIS) and the Monitoring Workbook. This included data from all partner agencies involved in the administration of bail including ACPOS, the SCS and COPFS.

Following initial analysis of the KPI data and discussions with key stakeholders, four case study areas were selected in which to concentrate the qualitative research. These were based upon Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB) areas, and were Ayrshire, Central, Lothian and Borders, and Glasgow and Strathkelvin.

Interviews with Key Stakeholders

In-depth interviews were conducted with a range of key stakeholders. This included one interview with a Judge, 10 interviews with Sheriffs, six interviews with Justices of the Peace, nine interviews with Procurators Fiscal, nine interviews with defence agents, and 20 interviews with senior police officers (Inspectors and Sergeants).

As part of the evaluation, a survey was also undertaken with a small number of accused in four courts within case study areas who had previously been released on bail. Using this approach, a total of 27 accused were interviewed.

Unlike the summary justice reforms, the bail reforms also applied to solemn cases. As a result, attempts were made to canvass the views of a small number of victims who had been involved in (now closed) solemn cases where the accused had been given bail. Short one-to-one interviews were carried out with six victims, and the data was considered alongside data generated from victims involved in summary cases (reported separately as part of the SJR Victims, Witnesses and Public Perceptions evaluation).

Cost-benefit Analysis

A limited cost-benefit exercise was also attempted to assess whether the benefits i.e. savings generated by the reforms to bail, were sufficient to outweigh the corresponding burdens arising from the reforms. This encountered several challenges, not least being a lack of available data to inform its execution rendering a full economic analysis not possible. Instead, the evaluation considered the likely impact of the reforms on the workloads of the main criminal justice agencies involved in the administration of bail, as well as the impacts on failure to appear and repeat rescheduling of cases which may all have associated costs to the system.


Email: Carole Wilson

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