Experiences of Supervised Bail

This report outlines in details the findings of interviews with people who had been on supervised bail. These interviews explored the bailees experiences of supervised bail and the perceived impact of supervised bail on bailee's lives and behaviour. These interviews formed one strand of a wider research project on supervised bail, and a report on the full findings of this project is published alongside this report

2 Findings

In this chapter we outline the findings from the interviews, working roughly from the left to the right of the logic model, i.e. beginning with outlining the bailee's experiences of the activities involved in supervised bail, and moving from there to their accounts of the outcomes of supervised bail.

The bailees

2.1 The interviewees ranged in age from 18 to 43, with most being between 18 and 22 years of age. Two of the ten were female, and there was a range of experience with crime and the criminal justice system, from those who had been charged with a crime for the first time, to those who had served prison sentences of over a year. Likewise, some had been on supervised bail once, and some had been on it multiple times, and/or had experience with regular bail or remand. Some of the younger interviewees lived with parents, others alone or with partners or siblings, and some had children.

2.2 The charges associated with their supervised bail also varied, and often interviewees could not recall the exact charges, though most seemed to be violence or weapon-related.

Supervised bail screening

2.3 As outlined above, in some areas potential bailees are screened in the cells by bail workers, while others are identified as potential bailees by other means i.e. on the referral of defence agents. Of the bailees interviewed, some said they were screened in cells, others said their lawyers had suggested supervised bail to them, and set up screening, and one said they had requested it themselves. All the interviewees from one supervised bail scheme had been screened in the cells, while in the other schemes it was mixed.

2.4 All but one bailee had been told or believed that they would have been remanded if they had not been given supervised bail. This fact, that supervised bail meant that they remained out of prison and in the community, was key to many interviewee's understanding and evaluation of supervised bail itself, as we will see below. The one interviewee who said they did not know what to expect if they had not been given supervised bail had a general lack of understanding of the system, including their own disposal, and seemed to see supervised bail as part of their punishment (see case study 3).

2.5 Some bailees said that they had not been sure about supervised bail at first for various reasons (their innocence, not knowing about it, first impression of bail worker) though others said that they saw it as worth a try because it was not prison.

Case Study 1

Bailee A was 18 when interviewed. He lived by himself, having recently broken up with a girlfriend who he had been staying with. He had been on supervised bail multiple times from the age of 16. The charges had ranged from serious assault to breach of the peace, and all of these cases had eventually been dropped. His only conviction was for breach of a curfew while he had been on supervised bail.

The main message about supervised bail from this bailee was that it was inconvenient. On the one hand, he saw this as bad as he had to put time and effort into attending meetings, and it interfered with other things he wanted to do, but on the other it was good as he felt it motivated him to avoid trouble, so he didn‟t have to go through it again. He was also clear that it was preferable to prison.

On the meetings themselves:
Most of the time you just sign a bit of paper, talk for five minutes and went home, but sometimes he‟ll say they want yi tae sit and they dae questionnaires and that wi you… A kin never be bothered. It‟s a pain in the arse. A needed tae come three times a week …at half two in the day a needed tae make a trip intae toon every week. It‟s better than the jail but ....

Bailee : but when a used to go intae the office a don‟t think a‟ve ever been in here for mare than five, ten minutes. I sign ma bit of paper and leave.
Interviewer : what do you think the questionnaires and stuff were for?
: it wis always aboot talkin aboot offending … drugs and alcohol. Always askin if you wanted help, if a needed help. But a‟ve never, didnae really need it.

On the bail worker:
It wisnae as bad as a thought it wis goin‟ tae be. Because when a first met, it wis (name), a‟ didnae like him at first, he‟s like a polisman, it was lik e talkin‟ to the polis, a‟ hate talking to the polis. But we started getting on eventually

On inconvenience:
Interviewer : Is there anything you would say is bad about the supervision?
Bailee : there is nothing bad aboot it. It is just a pain coming like three times a week. A got mine dropped to two, cos I was good…good at coming, so that wis alright when they dropped it to the two. A couldnae be bothered. When you‟re away doin‟ something and then you need tae leave, come in here. It wisnae the problem of comin‟ in here it wis just the needin‟ tae come. To leave whit you‟re daein‟, aye. Especially last winter an‟ a‟. It wis freezin‟ cold a‟ the time
Interviewer : what do you reckon works best? About supervised bail?
Bailee : it just, it annoys yi. And you just want to get aff y it. So you just don‟t want tae go through again. I used to come in and get a laugh and that bit it wis just needing tae come a‟ the time an‟ that. You cannae make plans.

On change in his behaviour over time:
Aye cos when a wis 16 a didnae care. Noo a‟m no – when a wis oot at the thing at the weekend there, a wis at a pub across the road, all them just started fighting an‟ that an a just went hame. Am no getting in this, I‟m no landing back in the jail.

Experiences and attitudes to remand and regular bail

2.6 All who talked about it saw supervised as a better option for them than remand, including those who had been on remand and those who had not:

"In jail I would have had no job, no family, no life"

2.7 Clearly the very fact of being able to stay in the community and maintain or build a normal life was of central importance to the bailees. Some also talked about concerns that being remanded would have led to them getting into more trouble, because of the other people they would meet in prison. One, who was currently on remand, said that the experience had been the worst time of his life.

2.8 Two bailees compared their experience with supervised bail to their experience on regular bail. One talked about not having any help or support on regular bail, and how he 'got mad wi it' when he was on regular bail. Similarly, the other had previously had regular bail with a curfew, which he had broken by going out and getting drunk.

Supervised bail meetings

2.9 The interviewees reported attending between 2 and 4 meetings a week, mostly at the supervisors' office, with some meetings also taking the form of home visits or phone calls. The length of these meetings ranged between 5 minutes to up to and over an hour. Some bailees interviewed described their meeting length varying depending on how much they had to talk about, or meetings consisting either simply of signing in and leaving, or sometimes sitting and doing surveys with bail workers, while others talked about set appointment lengths of 15 minutes.

2.10 Some of this variance may be due to different practices or workloads in different schemes, or of different bail workers, but it seemed to the researchers that at least some of the variance was due to the tailoring of meeting frequency and lengths to the needs and circumstances of the bailees.

2.11 Bailees talked about having their attendance requirements reduced after a time, to fewer meetings, and some/more home visits or phone calls rather than meetings in the bail offices. This was explained by interviewees to be a reward for attending meetings and behaving well in general, and some expressed a real sense of pride at having earned this, and at not having missed any meetings. One bailee in particular reiterated multiple times throughout the interview that he had never missed a meeting, and had his contact steadily reduced. This reduction was also sometimes said to be to fit in with a bailee's work, thus allowing them to start or maintain employment.

Case Study 2

Bailee E was in his 40s when interviewed. He lived with his long term partner and young child. He had been on supervised bail once, while charged with assault. He had previous weapon-related convictions from when he was younger and had been in prison several times, but had not received a prison sentence at the end of his supervised bail, and he put this down to the positive report from his bail supervisor.

For this bailee the key thing was his relationship with the bail workers and the positive feedback he got from them – he talked about how well he got on with them, how he had never missed a meeting and had been rewarded with a reduction in meeting frequency, how the good report had led the Judge to call him a "stand up citizen‟ and gi ve him a community sentence, and how the bail workers were sti ll complementary to him when he bumped into them. He also appreciated that it allowed him to keep his job, and spend time with his child and partner.

But I‟m, like that, get on brilliant wi (bail worker), she was brilliant, she went on holiday and that and we spoke about it, the place she‟d been to and that, she‟s like that "you‟ve really got it down to a t‟.

And don‟t get me wrong, when I went to se them a went tae see them fir about three hours, four hours you know whit a mean, talking about a load of things. And the other week there when I was on community service and he seen me there ... he says how you keeping, you working away and that? ... they ‟re a‟right, they‟re brand new .... I wis really ok. Ma wife wis really happy for it an all, really happy, the way they were with me it wis brilliant. They were great wi me and the way they were wi‟ (name of child) it wis good the way they were

Because I done what I was told, a‟d tried ma best to get on wi‟ them. If yi don‟t do this or that you are nae goin‟ tae get on wi it obviously. Goin‟ tae work, you don‟t go tae work, you‟re goin‟ tae lose your job. If you don‟t go tae [supervised bail] there you‟re goin‟ tae go to prison. You‟re goin‟ tae dae it. But I think the better side y things wis, the laugh I had wi them, laughin and joking, and they were really alright. And I says to young [name of friend]… I says they‟re only doing their job, they‟ve nothin‟ tae dae wi the polis an that. They‟re only daein‟ their job the same as everyone else … But really deep doon it affected me, made me think. A‟d been in trouble but I‟m working and all that the now, well I worked when that happened anyway, but its made me realise a don‟t want tae lose ma job. A really don‟t want tae lose ma job.

It wis brilliant fir me. It brought me and ma partner a lot closer. I come up expecting the jail and she [the Judge] says to me she actually says to me, she actually came oot somethin‟ aboot it, I‟m trying to remember what it is .... she says people make the high court ... "it works for some people and it doesn‟t work for others, this is what yi call a stand up citizen fir what he‟s done….he‟s admitted what he‟s done, he‟s admitted his faults , he‟s admitted what he‟s done was wrong…‟ blah blah blah, its written down, "and I think his sentence shouldn‟t be as thingmy, his sentence, prison isn‟t the issue here.‟ So I think that‟s why I got…[inaudible – not prison]

2.12 Other bailees, however, did not experience such flexibility, and saw meeting frequency and timing as non-negotiable.

2.13 In regards to the content of meetings, bailees talked about signing in, and talking to their bail workers. For some this talk was brief, and help was not needed or wanted. Other referred to the meetings as a source of emotional support, for example they:

'talked to me about family problems and everything I'd been through'.

2.14 Some also said they talked about their behaviour with bail workers, and - particularly the young men - about bail workers telling or reminding them to behave.

2.15 On the other hand, for an older bailee, while he felt that bail workers would try to help if he had a problem, he also liked them because they did not tell him what to do. This again demonstrates the tailoring of meetings, this time content, to match the needs and profile of the bailees.

2.16 Some bailees also talked positively about practical support provided by bail workers in meetings, which included:

  • Helping them find a better lawyer
  • Giving structure and keeping the bailee off the streets, occupied, and getting him out the house
  • Speaking to DSS on the phone and sorting out benefits issues
  • Helping the bailee look for a job

2.17 In addition, some of the bailees were signposted on to other services by bail workers, though some were offered and declined drugs or alcohol services because they felt they didn't need them. Services bailees did take up were:

  • Bereavement counselling ('the best thing that's ever happened to me' - see case study 5)
  • Addiction services (drug and/or alcohol)
  • Support to find employment/education

In/convenience of meetings

2.18 Some bailees talked about the convenience or inconvenience of meetings. Those who had gained jobs while on supervised bail described meetings being tailored around their work, with times changed or meeting format changed to phone calls. Another bailee talked about being able to go in and speak to their bail worker outside the allotted time when they needed someone to talk to. For these bailees supervised bail was flexible and supportive.

2.19 On the other hand, some bailees talked about the inconvenience of supervised bail, in that meetings were badly timed, or too frequent, or the journey there was time consuming or expensive. For some this was detrimental - for example for one bailee the meetings always occurred just as their children were coming home from school and they were cooking dinner, so they was sometimes late or forgot the meetings, and when there they were keen to get home quickly, which made meetings short and unproductive (see case study 3 on page 18).

2.20 For others the inconvenience of supervised bail was described as a deterrence to offending (see case study 1):

"It just annoys you. And you just want to get off of it. So you just don't want to go through that again"

2.21 Some bailees specifically mentioned that being on the tag as a further condition of bail was inconvenient because it prevented them from doing things such as going camping or walking their dogs.

Relationship with supervisor

2.22 All of the bailees said that they got on well with their bail workers, which is not surprising given that almost all were recruited for interview by bail workers.

2.23 When talking about their relationship with bail workers, the following things were talked about positively:


2.24 Bailees talked about their bail workers being someone to talk to, someone who managed to get the bailee to talk in a way they had not before, and about things they had not felt able to talk to anyone else about. Bailees explained that this was because bail workers were truthful, 'had some skills' at breaking down barriers, were understanding, and interested, and talk was confidential.

'Like a normal person'

2.25 In addition to being someone to talk to, bailees variously described bail workers as 'a laugh', as someone who would also talk to bailees about their own lives (such as holidays), and therefore as someone who was 'like a normal person' or 'like my own wee mum', rather than like a social worker or police. This suggests that, in turn, bailees felt like they were being treated as regular people, or even family, rather than as criminal clients. So, for example, one bailee described how he got on well with two of the bail workers because they were 'a laugh', but not a third, because he came across like a police officer.

Case Study 3

Bailee D was in her 30s at time of interview, and lived with her children. She had been on supervised bail once, and had never previously had any contact with the justice system.

For this bailee the whole experience of being charged, being on supervised bail, and going to court and being convicted was very upsetting, and supervised bail seemed to be to her just one element of this wider, traumatising experience. Unlike the other interviewees, she did not see supervised bail as an alternative to remand, and she found the meetings unhelpful, inconvenient, and embarrassing.

On timing of meetings:
a had tae set ma phone cos the kids are comin‟ in fi‟ school at that time and a‟m runnin‟ about tryin‟ tae get dinners ready. So a couple y times a wis either late or a live about five minutes fi‟ here so .... em he would always phone me and say ken, what... is there somethin‟ wrong, why have yi no attended? And if I‟d forgot, which most y the time, when the kids are all in, ken your head‟s, when you‟ve got all these kids goin‟ a‟m hungry, a‟m hungry, so tryin‟ tae get them all sorted, a mean, it dis just go oot yer heid eh ....em, but he used tae phone me and say, listen ken so and he used tae be right roond here, eh? But it was only three or four times that he had tae remind me, you know?

On content of meetings:
Interviewer : so when you were, you know, was it just. Would you say it was about..
Bailee : five minutes
Interviewer : five minutes or so. And when you were here, what would you do?
Bailee : em, just asked me about reoffending. Again if there was any problems, em, sign ma name on the form and he gave me a time for the next week. It wisnae, like, he never rushed me in and oot. Ken he would sit and talk if a felt like talkin‟ but a mean, maist o‟ the time a just wanted tae get in and oot cos a had tae get back tae the kids.
Interviewer : yes, so that means, in itself, was there anything useful for you in that or was it just a case of in and out?
Bailee : it was just a case of in and out, yeah. A did what a was telt tae do and that was it.

On impact of supervised bail:
Interviewer : did it affect your behaviour? Being on it at all?
Bailee : when a got the charge a had severe depression and a was on anti depressants. But that was for the charge no‟ for the bail itsel‟. Just like a big shock eh? Bein‟ put in cells wi‟ .... and there a‟ night, a‟ve never been away fi‟ ma kids, a‟ve never been in that kind o‟ trouble. So it wis just a big shock. A‟m still tryin‟ tae get over it, eh? But a‟m under a psychiatrist and got anti depressants and that so a‟m gettin‟ there slowly.

Interviewer : being on the bail supervision, did it have any impact on your family?
Bailee : we were all a bit embarrassed, eh? Ma kids were embarrassed as well, ken, embarrassed, eh … The wee ones were more embarrassed aboot it.

2.26 Bailees also talked positively about the flexibility of bail workers, of the compliments bail workers gave them about their behaviour, about their helpfulness and the support they provided, about their advice, their truthfulness and understanding, and about them being good with their family. One bailee talked about looking forward to seeing his bail worker, and not wanting to let her down.

2.27 All of these positive comments demonstrate that these bailees felt that they could trust their bail workers, in terms of their confidence, their intentions, and their advice. And in this context, bailees talked about the emotional and psychological support provided by bail workers. They talked about how bail workers helped with personal problems, and helped them change their outlook and behaviour, i.e. making them think and stopping them getting into trouble. This sets the scene for their descriptions of the impact of supervised bail on their lives and behaviour, outlined below, by starting to show the links between supervised bail activities and the outcomes for the bailees.

No Support

2.28 Two bailees talked about not getting support from bail workers. Both stated they did not need support because they were not criminals, and therefore did not need support to not reoffend. One also said they may have talked to the bail worker if there was more time or if they felt they had needed to talk. This bailee talked in the interview about the problems they had due to the effects of their experience with the criminal justice system, but they said that they had not talked to the bail worker about them, and was now seeing a psychiatrist (see case study 3).


2.29 Some bailees talked about how they had breached regular bail or a previous curfew:

"I reoffended on the curfew because you see your friends going out and having fun and you think 'fuck it'. You've got like a 50-50 chance of getting caught so you take it. On supervised bail you can talk to folk and you don't have the constant keeping an eye out for the police like with the curfew."

2.30 This bailee seemed to see the curfew as difficult and constraining, compared to the more supportive model of supervised bail that did not automatically set them against the police. Another bailee said that they had constantly breached regular bail previously, because they did not care, or they would forget. This suggests that this bailee felt that supervised bail helped them both to remember to behave, and to care about their behaviour.

2.31 Most of the bailees did not get breached while on supervised bail. Some had missed some meetings, but had either called in to rearrange, or had viable reasons, and so were not deemed by their bail workers to have breached their bail. Some stated they did not breach because they didn't want to go to prison or back to court:

"Oh aye. I stuck to it, you know what I mean? You've got to…I didn't want to break it. I want to spend time with my wain. I didn't want to prison. I'm too old to go back to prison."

"Well it was hard to start off with like, because it was three times a week, it was like trying to get the bus up every day, well every second day to the town. But after a few weeks it was alright. It was keeping me out of bother too. I knew I had to stick to it. Or I would end up …back at court and all that."

2.32 One bailee was breached the third time they had been on supervised bail, for breaking a curfew. One was charged with another offence and fined, but supervised bail continued. One had been on supervised bail at least three times, and had in that time been breached for further offending, and not attending. The bailee put this down to addiction issues and said they had done much better on their most recent period on supervised bail.

Case outcomes

2.33 Most of the bailees had either had their case dropped, been found not guilty, or had received a community sentence. It is important to recognise that if these bailees had not been on supervised bail, they would have spent time in prison on remand which could not have been counted towards a final prison sentence because they were not convicted or did not receive a prison sentence. Two had been on supervised bail multiple times and did not mention particular sentences. One was still waiting for his case to reach court.

2.34 Some of those who had been given community sentences talked about the positive report that the bail workers had submitted to the court about them, and some specifically said that they believed they would have been given a jail sentence if it wasn't for supervised bail (see case study 2 and 5)

2.35 Data analysed for the wider research project of which these interviews were a part suggest that those who have successfully completed a supervised bail order are more likely to be given a community sentence, and less likely to get a prison sentence, than those who did not complete supervised bail, which suggests that successful completion does influence sentencing decisions. This, alongside positive reports for the court from bail workers, also enhances the encouragement and praise function outlined below.

Bailee behaviour and attitudes

2.36 When describing their behaviour before being on supervised bail, bailees often talked about behaving badly when they were younger, conspicuously putting that part of their life in past tense (see box 3 on criminal identity). Some referred to drinking and taking drugs, or having a bad peer group. Others talked about previous attitudes - blocking everyone out, or not feeling they could talk to anyone. One bailee had never been in trouble before.

2.37 All interviewees except one[6] talked about a positive change in their behaviour over time. Common themes in describing this change were:

  • A desire to avoid trouble or jail
  • Learning to avoid conflict situations (see box 1)
  • Stopping drinking or taking drugs
  • Growing out of bad behaviour (too old for jail)[7]
  • Having sustained good behaviour for some time

Box 1: Walking away from trouble

"I‟ve cleaned my act up anyway. I cannae be bothered wi th the jail. I cannae be bothered with any of this…When I was out at the thing at the weekend there, I was at a pub across the road, all them just started fighting and that and I just went home. I‟m not getting in this, I‟m not ending up back in the jail"
Bailee 1

"I went to [place] on the bus and there were four boys and they tried to jump me, and obviously I said to them, I said that I was going to try to fight wi th them. I just walked away from that, that was one of the things that they [bail workers] were saying to try and do, just walk away from it all, so I tried it."
Bailee 9

2.38 Some bailees talked about this behaviour change separately from their supervised bail, while others talked about how supervisors had enabled them to behave better by:

  • Regularly reminding them to behave (see box 2)
  • Being clear about consequences of bad behaviour
  • Providing support
  • Giving them something to do out of the house and off the streets

Box 2: Reminder to behave

"It made me think twice about being a nuisance, because it was meeting wi th them on Thursday and Friday, before the weekend, makes you think before you do it. They would tell me "don‟t go out and get drunk‟ etc, it was a reminder, puts that thing in you head to behave."

Interviewer: Can you say something more about how they kept you out of trouble?
Bailee: Telling me what to do and that, warning me that if I do anything wrong, I would get the jail for it. So that‟s when I just kept my head down.

Case Study 4

Bailee H was 19 at the time of interview, and was currently in prison. She had been on supervised bail multiple times. On earlier occasions she had offended whi le on supervised bail or not attended, and been breached and remanded, but on the most recent occasion she had attended well and had her meetings reduced from 3 to 2 times a week, and then to once a week.

This bailee did not think that supervised bail had prevented her from offending, as she had had drug addiction issues at the time. She did, however, value having the bail worker to talk to, and she described seeking advice from her bail worker, and going in to talk to her bail worker outside of her prescribed appointments.

On relationship with the bail worker:
Interviewer : aha so how do you get on with [name of bail worker]?
Bailee : aye a got on wi her well, so I did.
Interviewer : was that right from the beginning?
Bailee : at the beginning a didnae want tae talk to her because a didnae know her, but the more a got tae know her. And a would end up have tae go tae speak tae her. Aye. And she wis always there obviously to give me advice on how tae deal wi things

Bailee : it wis good tae have someone there. Someone tae talk tae
Interviewer : yes. So did you find it easy or difficult to keep to the supervised bail?
Bailee : it wis sometimes easy but obviously if a had other things on because obviously I was a drug user and all ... so obviously the drugs an a‟ that made it a wee bit hard

Interviewer : can you describe what it was about [name of bail worker] in particular that made her really good to talk to? I know it is quite a hard question but
Bailee : cos no. It‟s cos she wis a nice woman she wis dead down to earth, and a liked it because obviously she always told the truth. But she never held anything back. She told it as it wis. Cos you get workers that try tae beat about the bush, aboot it. But she wis dead straightforward.

On the impact of supervised bail:
Interviewer : do you think it made any difference to yourself?
Bailee : no really cos a wis that chaotic. So a wis
Interviewer : so that didn‟t make any difference to the way you were behaving? Did it have ... what do you think works best? About it – like for you?
Bailee : it wis good to just get things aff ma mind. It gave me the chance to tell ma problems.
Interviewer : mmm is that what made you go?
Bailee : no a just knew that a had to go. But there wis a couple o times that a just popped in because a needed somebody tae talk tae, so a did. So obviously a went in and if [name of bail worker] had time tae speak to me she wid. So that wis good an a‟. Because normally when you work with somebody, if it‟s no your appointment time they don‟t want tae see ye. So it wis nice obviously tae have somebody there.

2.39 Some bailees believed that supervised bail had helped them to change their behaviour long term, while some felt that it only helped while they were on supervised bail, and some felt that their behaviour did not need improving by supervised bail. One felt that supervised bail could not have impacted their behaviour because they were too chaotic at that time (see case study 4).

2.40 Some bailees described their current attitudes towards their own behaviour, stating that they weren't interested in getting into any more trouble, talking with pride about how long they had been out of trouble for, or saying they were looking forward to having a 'clean slate' when their sentence was over.

2.41 In terms of their future plans and expectations, bailees talked about their intention to stay out of trouble. Some also talked about future job plans and ambitions and had clearly put some thought into a future, non-criminal self. One did not seem to have thought about the future, stating simply that he thought his future behaviour would be 'about the same'.

Box 3: Criminal Identity

Some of the older bailees described getting into trouble as something they did when they were younger, placing it firmly in the past tense, and stating that they were now too old to get into trouble. Another also put their offending in the past tense, linking it to their previous identity as a "drug user‟. A fourth bailee said clearly that they were not a criminal, describing the charge as a one off. In all of these cases offending did not fit in with their

Family relationships

2.42 Bailees talked about the impact on their families of three different things - not being on remand while being on supervised bail, supervised bail itself, and other bail conditions such as a curfew.

2.43 Not being on remand: Bailees talked about it being good for their families that they did not have to visit them in prison, or about still being able to see their families because they were not in prison. One also talked about it being easier for his wife to not have to look after their dogs by herself.

'It kept me out the jail, I had a job and could see my wee girl'

2.44 Supervised bail: Some bailees talked generally about supervised bail being good for their family relationships, for example by changing their attitudes (realising how important a child was, bringing them closer to their partner) or their behaviour (family appreciating the effort he was making when he stopped drinking and taking drugs). However, one bailee talked about how embarrassed they and their children were about them being on supervised bail.

2.45 Curfew: Two bailees described breaking up with their girlfriends because of the curfew (and supervised bail). Another talked about not being able to visit his family because of a curfew, and having to move house because of a bail condition. This chimes with a recent evidence review which concluded that curfews can place stress on family relationships (Armstrong et al 2011).

2.46 Taking all this together it seems that for our interviewees remand and curfews put a strain on family relationships, whereas supervised bail had the potential to not only maintain but improve these relationships in some cases, when the supervision was felt to have enabled the bailee to change their attitudes or behaviour. Clearly we cannot generalise this finding from a sample of ten, but it may be worth conducting research to explore the varying experiences of those on remand, curfews, and other special bail conditions to inform future policy in this area.

Overall views

2.47 There were striking recurring themes when bailees were asked about what was good and bad about supervised bail, although it was also striking how the emphases across these themes differed from bailee to bailee:

Better than jail

2.48 Supervised bail was regularly and favourably compared to the alternative - remand. It was a strong message to bailees that they had narrowly avoided going to prison, and this was described as a deterrent to breaching as well as giving bailees the feeling that they'd been given a second, or last, chance. So, for example, this was the most important thing about supervised bail for one bailee whose case had eventually been dropped. He reiterated several times that supervised bail was better than jail, especially as he could have spent time on remand for something he 'didn't even do':

'See if it wasn't [inaudible] the jails would be packed. I don't know how many [bail worker]'s got on the bail, but I would actually say it's the best - helping people anyway. They do help, I'd rather go and sign with them than sit in a prison cell…8 by 10 cell…I would honestly.'

2.49 It should be emphasised that it is not just that bailees saw prison as a bad place to be, they also saw the positives in being out in the community - being able to maintain and build upon family relationships, education and employment, in other words maintain or build a non-criminal, pro-social identity while awaiting trial.

Someone being there for you

2.50 For some it was the relationship with the bail worker which was most important and positive thing about supervised bail. This relationship was often described as unique in their lives, in that it provided someone to talk to, someone who was there for you, and who could try to help you. For some of the younger bailees this help came in the form of being told and reminded what to do and not do, while for others it was simply having someone to listen and care. Bailees described the change in themselves brought about by this relationship, for example it 'made them think', 'opened them up', kept them 'out of trouble'.

2.51 Some other themes were prominent to fewer bailees, but still worth mentioning:

Something to do

2.52 For one bailee the key thing he repeatedly returned to was that having to go to bail meetings gave him something to do, keeping him out of the house and off the streets.

Burden to be endured and avoided

2.53 For another, having to go to the meetings was a real inconvenience and a burden, but this was explained as a positive thing, as it motivated him to finish supervised bail and avoid going through anything like it again, i.e. to stay out of trouble (see case study 1).

2.54 The majority of bailees, when asked, could think of nothing bad about their experience of supervised bail, save for one who said the meeting rooms were not nice. There was, however, one big exception to this. As outlined above, for one bailee supervised bail was simply one aspect of the larger traumatising experience of going through the justice system. This bailee had never been in trouble before, did not know whether they would have been remanded otherwise or not, and described meetings as being 'in and out' and very inconvenient because they were scheduled for the same time as their children were returning from school. It seemed to the researchers that this bailee saw supervised bail as part of the punishment, and it was described as embarrassing for the bailee and their family (see case study 3).

2.55 This case demonstrates the importance of careful targeting of supervised bail, clear explanations of the alternatives at the outset, and the damaging impact of scheduling meetings at disruptive times. It also shows that supervised bail can be stigmatising for those accused who have had no previous charges or contact with the criminal justice system.

Case Study 5

Bailee J was 21 at time of interview. He described "going downhi ll‟ in terms of behaviour in recent years following a death in the family. He had been on supervised bail once, when he had been charged with handling an offensive weapon. He completed supervised bail successfully, and was given probation and community service. He was signposted to counselling and addiction services, which he was very positive about.

This bailee was very positive about supervised bail, and described how his relationship with his bail worker, alongside the services he was signposted to, changed his attitude to his life, his future, and his offending.

Interviewer: Em, so do you think that having the supervised bail had any sort of influence on like the sentencing then?
Bailee: yeah definitely, definitely, because the reports that [Name of bail supervisor] gied fir me was absolutely great, the stuff she had tae say aboot us and that. It was basically showin there wis another side tae, how dae a say this? It‟s no the government but policing and whatever. I never thought there wis that side tae them, a thought they were always just bangin the hammer sendin doon, ye know whit a mean? So it wis nice tae know there were people there tae actually support yi and be helpful.

But tae be honest, it‟s gied me a reality check because a wis goin doon hill an a know a‟ve got the rest o ma life tae live, and I can do lots with maself. So ahm ur going to go out there an dae a lot. And a‟m really intae all ma charity work the noo. A‟ve got an interview wi [Charity] next week so fingers crossed that a get that, an if no, a‟ll get back intae [previous job role].

Interviewer: what difference did it make to your life?
Bailee: well it showed me that there is actually people there for you, to help you. And you arenae on your own. Because that wis me. A wis on ma own. That‟s why a said at the start a had ma barriers up. An a wis blockin everybody oot. A didnae want tae take any information aff ae nobody. But as a said, after three weeks she had broke that barrier and got me talkin. And then, she actually, she wis a good influence, she made me see sense aboot a lot of things as well.
Interviewer: so you think it affected your behaviour at the time?
Bailee: mmhm
Interviewer: in what way?
Bailee: well a wisnae getting as aggressive an goin oot there an putting maself in danger and in trouble. If ye know whit a mean? I wis tryin tae keep ma heid straight and whatever. An a wisnae wantin tae let (Name of supervisor) doon if ye know whit a mean (laughter). She wis like ma own wee mum.

Bailee: yep Tuesdays she would phone me, Thursday a‟d go doon
Interviewer: right aha. And the phone call was that sort of more a checkin in or was that like a full meeting as well?
Bailee: eh, checking in, seein how a wis daein, eh just generally ... but that made you feel better. She is checkin up on me. Somebody is wantin tae see how a‟m ur and how a‟m daein ye know whit a mean? And then a wis lookin forward tae seein her on the Thursday. A‟ve got ma gossip.


Email: Carole Wilson

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