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Impact of bail reforms on SJR 14/03/2012 A recent report publishes the findings from the Evaluation of the Impact of Bail Reforms on Summary Justice Reform.

Impact of bail reforms on SJR

A recent report publishes the findings from the Evaluation of the Impact of Bail Reforms on Summary Justice Reform. The findings form part of a wider package of work to evaluate Summary Justice Reform (SJR) in Scotland as a whole. The aim of the research was to evaluate how far the reforms to bail had met specific policy objectives as well as how far they had contributed to the overarching aims and objectives of SJR.

The report findings are that:

  • there have been fewer bail orders granted over time. It is thought that this may reflect wider summary justice system changes as well as a drop in court workloads;
  • convictions for breach have increased overall, contrary to the aim of the reforms to reduce breach, suggesting, perhaps, that bail is not being taken seriously by accused, though it may also reflect a tougher approach to breach on the part of justice professionals: and
  • there has been some reduction in failure to appear in summary courts, though it is unclear if this numerical drop represents a proportional drop.
In addition it was found that the current system of providing ‘ordinary language’ explanations in court does not seem to be offering the level of clarity required for those who have not had previous involvement in the court system. These accused welcomed the prospect of more targeted information, which it is thought could also make the system more efficient and effective. This information seems to be required on the system as a whole, not just on bail.

The report states that although, procedurally, changes to the bail appeal system were welcomed, there may be scope to further improve this specific component of the bail system by ensuring that members of the judiciary receive feedback on the quality and usefulness of the reports that they prepare.

Finally the general perception reported by almost all of those interviewed was that the current system of bail is fair, but they questioned its effectiveness, especially in terms of deterring future breach amongst repeat offenders.

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