Supervised Bail in Scotland: Research on Use and Impact

This report outlines findings on the use and impact of supervised bail in Scotland from a research project which included analysis of operational data, economic analysis, a workshop with bail workers, surveys of the judiciary and Procurators Fiscal, and interviews with people who have been on supervised bail.

9 Ongoing Issues

9.1 We have seen, then, that supervised bail can have a notable impact on the behaviour and wider lives of bailees, as long as it is targeted effectively, and that it represents value for money as compared to remand. We have also seen, however, that the uptake of supervised bail has been reducing over recent years, particularly in the Glasgow and Fife and Forth Valley criminal justice areas. There are three potential reasons for this decline - process related issues, issues around awareness and 'buy in' and the size of the potential bailee population. We will now go through these in turn and consider what could be done to address these issues.

Process related issues

9.2 For supervised bail to be offered in all 'borderline' cases, it is essential that supervised bail is available in all areas all of the time, and that processes for screening for supervised bail are in place and consistently adhered to.

9.3 When the case level data outlined above was obtained from LAs, not every area had a supervised bail scheme in place, meaning that access to supervised bail was inconsistent across the country.

9.4 Additionally, bail workers in the workshop and members of the judiciary surveyed highlighted issues with the screening process. Some members of the judiciary commented on the infrequency of supervised bail being proposed, and bail workers felt that communication about supervised bail between themselves and the relevant court actors (Procurators Fiscal, defence agents, police, the judiciary) was not sufficiently built in to the process. This was both in terms of making court actors aware of supervised bail in the first place, and also effective and timely communication to allow screening for supervised bail to take place before an accused appeared in court at a bail hearing. It was also felt that it was important to let bail workers know when a bail order had ended, particularly when a court case was not going ahead, and that this was not always happening.

9.5 Bail workers suggested that the following should be in place to allow effective supervised bail provision:

  • A process whereby bail workers are informed as early as possible of PF's bail positions
  • Regular meetings with local criminal justice agencies to monitor processes
  • Availability of bail workers and suitable facilities for screening of potential bailees
  • A national (IT) system to notify all partners where a supervised bail scheme is in place, and to notify social work of case events e.g. case dropped or bailee remanded.

Awareness and buy in

9.6 As well as smooth processes, it is vital that those involved in any way with supervised bail are both aware of the service, and of its benefits and appropriate application. This research has found that not all members of the judiciary, or Procurators Fiscal, are aware of supervised bail in their area, and not all Procurators Fiscal are convinced of its effectiveness.

9.7 The suggestions outlined above for improving processes all involve an aspect of awareness raising, and this demonstrates how such communication could be built in to the day to day work of bail workers. There could also be other activities aimed solely at awareness raising, such as the development of a supervised bail induction pack for new and visiting sheriffs, Procurators Fiscal, and defence agents, or wider circulation of feedback on the positive outcomes of supervised bail orders, possibly using the national IT system suggested by bail workers.

9.8 The findings of this evaluation could be used to provide content for such awareness raising, in that they highlight the potential positive impact of supervised bail, and reinforce the importance of targeting at those who would have otherwise been put on remand.

Population size

9.9 It is important to remember that it is difficult if not impossible to estimate the number of cases going through Scottish courts for which supervised bail could be suitable, because it is a sum of many factors which lead to a case being deemed 'borderline' by a member of the judiciary. It is possible that the decline in supervised bail is due to a decline in such borderline cases, perhaps linked to the overall decline in the number of cases going through the courts overall.

9.10 However, the presence of issues around process, awareness and buy in outlined above suggests that there is some scope to increase the uptake of supervised bail by working to increase awareness and buy in amongst relevant justice professionals, as well as making sure that appropriate processes are in place to screen for supervised bail in individual courts.


Email: Carole Wilson

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