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.


1. Currently the majority of supervised bail schemes are run by Criminal Justice Social Work, though some are run by third sector organisations, usually Sacro.
2. This is different from 'regular' bail, where accused are released with conditions on their behaviour, but no further contact with the justice system until their court date. Supervised bail could be described as a further condition on regular bail, as supervised bailees still have regular bail conditions.
3. A 2009 Audit found that the following areas had no bail supervision schemes in place or in development: Scottish Borders Council; East Renfrewshire Council; Renfrewshire Council; Western Isles Council; Moray Council; East Lothian Council
4. The survey of Judiciary was answered by 39 Sheriffs, 1 Judge, and 1 person who did not specify which role they occupied. This represents 27% of all Sheriffs across Scotland, and a higher proportion of Sheriffs who work in a court where supervised bail is available. There were 21 responses to the PF survey, a response rate of roughly 8%.
5. This means that interviewees were likely to be those with positive experiences of supervised bail, and those who did not engage with their bail worker or attend meetings were not interviewed. A full account of the methodology for the bailee interviews can be found in the separate full report.
6. Although members of the judiciary who do not 'buy in' to supervised bail may have been less likely to fill out the survey.
7. Which allows them to screen only those for whom bail is opposed.
8. It should be noted that since the research took place the wording of the guidance has changed from: "Whilst priority should be given to those with mental health problems, women accused, single parents, drugs misusers and young people aged between 16 and 21, other accused e.g. individuals who would suffer extreme difficulties if remanded to custody, outwith these groups should, where capacity exists, also be targeted."
to: "Consideration should be given to any individual who might experience extreme difficulties if remanded to custody, for example those with mental health problems, single parents, drug misusers or young people aged between 16 and 21.
This change was made in order to highlight the fact that any individual can be considered for bail supervision rather than prescribing specific target groups.
9. The remaining bailee did not know what would have happened otherwise, so without speaking to the Sheriff in question we do not know if this was indeed a case of net-widening.
10. We cannot tell how far this is due to targeting, and how far it is the case that 'borderline' remand cases more often involve young people and/or females.
11. See Farrall (2005) on the development of non-criminal identity through employment.
12. There may be overlap between the categories 'breached' and 'remanded', because bailees may have been both breached and remanded for an offence allegedly committed while on bail. However, some may have been breached without being remanded, and some may have been remanded for offences allegedly committed before a bail order was imposed.
13. This was the bailee for whom the charges for which they had supervised bail were seen as a 'one off'.
14. This is also a recurrent theme in desistance literature, where it has been shown that many 'criminal careers' come to an end as people age, due to increased maturity, or the influence of life events such as finding a partner or getting a job.
15. For one of these bailees supervised bail was also partly responsible because some meetings took place at their girlfriend's parents' house, which caused tension.
16. Though we have seen above that successful completion of supervised bail discourages the use of custodial sentences.


Email: Carole Wilson

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