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.

3 Screening

3.1 The process for identifying potential supervised bailees differs from area to area, and so there is no 'standard' process that can be mapped out. In some places there are bail officers based in the courts who screen people in the cells before bail hearings, based upon information about PF bail positions7 . In other places screening for suitability for supervised bail is more ad hoc, and is requested by other court actors, most often defence agents, but sometimes members of the judiciary. Of the bailees interviewed, some had been screened in the cells, some had been referred for screening by their defence agent, and one said they had requested it themselves. Of the members of the judiciary who responded to the survey, most believed that having a bail worker screening for supervised bail in the court does or would encourage the use of supervised bail, but in individual cases they felt that it was usually defence agents who proposed its use.

3.2 In-court screening by bail officers is the most comprehensive approach, as it is not reliant on other court actors knowing about supervised bail, recognising that an accused may be suitable for it, and referring the accused for screening. However, in-court screening relies on a process being in place whereby bail officers are notified by police and PFs at an early stage as to the number of people in the cells who may be suitable for supervised bail, and identification of those for whom PFs plan to oppose bail.

3.3 Bail workers in the workshop suggested that obtaining this information at all or in a timely fashion was problematic in some places, especially in busy courts, which hindered bail workers' efforts to undertake effective and targeted screening. Among the respondents to the PF survey, there was mixed experience of providing bail positions to bail workers, and some respondents said that defence agents do or should do this rather than PFs.

3.4 It is clear from these findings that for the maximum number of potential bailees to be screened in courts where there are court-based bail workers, there needs to be clear processes in place for timely communication of information about those in the cells and PF bail positions to bail workers. It seems that, at least at the time of the research, such processes were not always in place or successfully implemented.

3.5 Where there cannot be bail workers based in the court, it is important that defence agents, PFs and members of the judiciary are aware of the availability of supervised bail; are knowledgeable about the kinds of cases and individuals it is suitable for; and willing to refer accused to bail workers for bail supervision screening where appropriate. Again this reinforces the need for good lines of communication between supervised bail workers and other justice professionals.


Email: Carole Wilson

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