Bail applications in Queensland

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Bail is a promise or an undertaking that you will return to court on a set date and abide by certain conditions.
Australia Criminal Law
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If charged with a criminal offence in Queensland, prior to your matter going to trial, you may seek bail. Bail is a promise or an undertaking that you will return to court on a set date and abide by certain conditions. Under the Bail Act 1980 (Qld) (the Bail Act), there are two types of bail in Queensland:

  1. Watchhouse bail; and
  2. Court bail.

What is watchhouse bail?

Watchhouse bail is granted by a police officer. This happens after a person has been arrested and taken to a police watchhouse. If you are given bail at the watchhouse, you are required to sign a bail undertaking which usually provides a number of conditions you must abide by.

If you are not granted watchhouse bail by a police officer, they are required to take you to court as soon as reasonably practicable, where you can apply to the court for bail.

What is court bail?

If you are not granted watchhouse bail, you are able to apply to the court for bail. If the court grants you bail, once you sign the bail undertaking, the police are required to release you. If a court grants you bail, you cannot leave the courthouse until you have signed a bail undertaking.

When considering whether to grant bail to a person, a Judge or a Magistrate will look at:

  • the nature and seriousness of the offending;
  • the character, antecedents, associations, home environment, employment and the person's background;
  • previous bail history;
  • the strength of the evidence against the person.

If the prosecutor is able to show the court that there is an unacceptable risk of the person committing further offences or failing to appear at the next court date, the court will likely refuse bail.

Some defendants will have to 'show cause' as to why they should be granted bail and not remain in custody. Under section 16(3) of the Bail Act, the following can place a person in a show cause position, including but not limited to:

  • if they are charged with a serious offence whilst already on bail for a serious offence;
  • if there is an allegation that a person used, or threatened to use, a firearm, weapon or explosive substance when committing an offence; or
  • if they are charged with an offence against the Bail Act.

Bail conditions that can be imposed

The court, or police officer, when granting a person bail, may impose any conditions that they think are necessary to ensure that the person:

  • will appear in court on a set date;
  • will not commit a criminal offence while on bail;
  • will not endanger the safety or welfare of others; and
  • won't interfere with witnesses or obstruct the course of justice.

Two conditions that are always imposed on a person's bail are:

  1. attending court on a set date; and
  2. not breaking the law.

Other conditions of bail often include, but are not limited to:

  • attending a local police station on set days and times;
  • residing at a certain address;
  • wearing a tracking device; and
  • a curfew.

When can bail be refused?

Section 16 of the Bail Act permits the court or a police officer to refuse bail if they are satisfied that:

  1. that there is an unacceptable risk that the defendant if released on bail—
    (i) would fail to appear and surrender into custody; or
    (ii) would while released on bail—
    1. commit an offence; or
    2. endanger the safety or welfare of a person who is claimed to be a victim of the offence with which the defendant is charged or anyone else's safety or welfare; or
    3. interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice, whether for the defendant or anyone else; or
  2. that the defendant should remain in custody for the defendant's own protection.

Breaching bail conditions

A breach of any bail condition/s may result in a warrant being issued for the person's arrest. If a person is charged with breaching his or her bail condition/s, it may result in a charge and conviction for breaching the condition/s.

Varying bail conditions

A person may apply to vary their bail conditions, but they will need to have grounds to do so.

Examples of reasons to vary bail conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • changing of residential address;
  • changing the police station at which the person is to report;
  • needing to alter the curfew hours if a person's working hours have changed.

Most often approval to vary bail conditions can be sought from the Office in Charge of the relevant police station or the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions without the need to return to court to seek the variation.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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