The Bail (Amendment) Bill 2016: Second Stage was debated in the Dáil on Wednesday 8th February 2017. It has now proceeded to Committee stage.
IPRT welcomes increased openness and transparency around bail decisions. However, IPRT cautions against possible over-use of bail conditions, particularly if they not relevant to the circumstances or risk of offending by the accused.
Research conducted on Pre-Trial Detention in Ireland by IPRT, published in April 2016, found “both an over-use of conditions and inadequate monitoring of compliance with bail conditions”, including that:
“People charged with offences at the lower end of the offending scale were routinely granted bail subject to multiple onerous conditions. Granting bail with multiple onerous conditions will in some cases have significant implications and in some cases will constitute an interference with liberty. Since people subject to pre-trial bail conditions have not yet been convicted of the offence with which they are charged, such infringements on their personal liberty can only be justified if necessary, proportionate and lawful.”
Therefore, IPRT strongly recommends that the Bail (Amendment) Bill 2016 includes provision of bail services and supports aimed at - the prevention of offending on bail, ensuring appearance at court, and reducing remands to custody to the essential minimum.
As regards electronic monitoring, in the IPRT Preliminary Submission on General Scheme of the Bail Bill August 2015, IPRT recommends that any proposed scheme for pre-trial electronic tagging be reviewed for compliance with Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec (2014)4 before being introduced into legislation. IPRT is also concerned that while electronic monitoring can be an alternative to remand, it shouldn’t be used to ‘widen the net’: electronic monitoring should be a genuine alternative to pre-trial detention, and it should not become a widely imposed condition of bail.
Moreover, electronic monitoring doesn't replace supports in the community – such as intensive case management, supervised bail support schemes, and mentoring. The most effective way to improve compliance with bail conditions, particularly where the accused person has a chaotic life and complex personal challenges, lies in the provision of bail supports and services that allow the accused to remain within their community and address offending-related behaviour in a familiar environment.