Justice | Success of revised bail laws
To ask the Minister for Justice the extent to which the revised bail laws are successfully preventing crimes while the accused is on bail; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As the Deputy has been advised by my predecessors, and as I am sure the Deputy appreciates, the restricting of a person’s liberty is a serious issue, given the Constitutional presumption that a person is deemed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
While the State’s bail laws do provide for the refusal of bail in certain circumstances, the presiding Judge is entirely independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and the decision to grant bail in a particular case is solely a matter for the Judge.
As previously conveyed to the Deputy, the Bail Act 1997 followed on foot of the 1996 referendum on a proposed amendment to the Constitution enabling a court to refuse bail for a person charged with a serious offence to prevent the risk of another serious offence being committed while on bail. Since then, the State’s bail laws were further strengthened, specifically by the Criminal Justice Act, 2007, the Criminal Justice Act, 2015, and the Criminal Justice Act, 2017.
In considering whether to refuse bail under the 1997 Act, the Court is required to have regard to persistent serious offending by an applicant and, in specific circumstances, the nature and likelihood of any danger to a person or to the community from granting bail.
The 2017 Act provides for stricter bail terms for repeat serious offenders, including the use of curfews and strengthens Garda powers to deal with breaches of bail. If an individual fails to comply with any bail conditions, the Judge will issue a bench warrant and this gives An Garda Síochána power to arrest and bring the person before the Court to answer all charges relating to the bail.
In the event of a breach of High Court bail, the defendant must be brought before the Court as soon as practicable for a revocation hearing. A breach of bail may also result in an additional charge and an order and/or surety for ‘forfeiture and estreatment’ of the bail money.
While I am advised by An Garda Síochána that the State’s amended bail laws have proven to be effective, all legislative provisions are of course kept under review.
The Deputy may wish to be aware that, Zero Tolerance, the Third National Strategy on Domestic Sexual and Gender Based Violence commits to establish a review cycle to identify outstanding and emerging further reforms required to law, practice and procedure outside of supporting the victim/survivor (with attention to the voices of adult and child survivors). As part of this work, consideration will be given to the possibility of placing limitations on the availability of bail for breaches of barring orders where there is a history of violence.
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