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Bail Law

The publication of the Report on Bail law in Criminal Proceedings on 6 September 2012 completes the Bail Project. The Report contains our recommendations to Government for reform together with draft legislation to implement the proposals.

The bail project involved an examination of the current law and practice in relation to bail in Northern Ireland. The project includes specific consideration of the provisions applying to children and young persons. The bail team comprises two Commissioners, Professor Sean Doran (Barrister-at-Law) and Mr Robert Hunniford (Lay Commissioner), a Senior Principal Legal Officer, Ms Katie Quinn, and a Legal Researcher, Mrs Patricia MacBride.

Currently the law governing bail in Northern Ireland is to be found in diverse legislative enactments and common law sources. Unlike the position in other jurisdictions, there is no enactment exclusively dedicated to the law and procedure of bail in Northern Ireland, encompassing the criteria for the grant of bail. This project aims to simplify and modernise the law governing bail decisions in this jurisdiction, rendering it more accessible and conducive to clear and principled decision making. The bail project also considers such administrative solutions as may be appropriate to run in tandem with the legislative scheme.

A Consultation Paper on the reform of bail law and practice in Northern Ireland was launched by the Commission on 30 September 2010. Topics considered in the Paper include the grounds for the refusal of bail, bail decision making, bail conditions, breach of bail, bail monitoring and support and the role of victims. The Paper presented over 50 questions for consideration by consultees.

The Commission ran a number of events to promote the Bail consultation and to encourage a broad response. Public meetings were held in two venues in Belfast, one in Dungannon and one in Derry/Londonderry. The Bail team also visited Hydebank Young Offenders Centre and Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre and, with the help of Include Youth, consulted with several young people there. Further meetings with young persons in Enniskillen and Derry/Londonderry were carried out with the assistance of VOYPIC and Include Youth.

The Bail team was invited to participate in a half-day seminar addressing some aspects of the Bail Consultation Paper with the Criminal Justice Issues Group in Hillsborough Castle on 25 January 2011. This Group comprises senior officials of the key criminal justice agencies as well as senior judges and representatives from the legal professions and voluntary sector. Several invited guests were also in attendance at the event bringing the total to approximately 45 participants. The event was chaired by the Honourable Mr Justice Hart and began with a presentation, on behalf of the Bail team, by Professor Sean Doran, followed by syndicate discussions and a plenary session.

The consultation period for the Bail Consultation Paper closed on Monday 31 January 2011. A further Equality Screening of the bail proposals was carried out in March/April 2011and an Equality Impact Assessment was completed in July 2011. The formal consultation period for the Equality Impact Assessment commenced on 5 July 2011 and closed on 11 October 2011.

Report on Bail in Criminal Proceedings - NILC 14 (2012)
Report on Equality Impact Assessment - Reform of Bail Law and Practice
Bail Consultation on Equality Impact Assessment
Bail Screening Analysis Form May 2011
Consultation Paper Bail in Criminal Proceedings NILC 7 (2010)
Bail Consultation on Equality Impact Screening September 2010