Bail support services and programs
Bail support programs assist accused persons who would otherwise be remanded in custody to access bail and to remain on bail (ie to meet their bail conditions). A lack of appropriate services to support young people to obtain bail and meet bail conditions has been identified as potentially contributing towards the high number of young people on custodial remand, particularly for Indigenous young people and young people from regional or remote areas. As a result, the provision of support in completing bail orders can play an important role in reducing rates of custodial remand. Bail support programs are usually specifically targeted either for adults or young people, presumably to distinguish the different needs of these groups. They are provided either by the jurisdiction’s youth justice department or by non-government organisations. In some states/territories, non-government organisations are funded by the jurisdiction’s youth justice agency to implement bail support programs.
Bail support programs (both government and non-government) were consulted with in all states and territories. Following is a description of government and non-government providers of bail support services in each jurisdiction, including an overview of research findings about the efficacy of these programs, where such findings are available.
New South Wales
Bail assistance line
The following information was provided by the Department of Attorney General and Justice about this service (personal communication 30 January 2013).
The Bail Assistance Line (BAL) is an after hours service provided by Juvenile Justice in partnership with NSW Police Force and Family and Community Services, that operates between 4pm and 3am every day of the year (including weekends and public holidays). The BAL provides a service to NSW Police who are considering conditional bail where the child or young person is unable to meet certain conditions. Police can call a 1300 number and speak with a Bail Coordinator who can provide a continuum of services, ranging from providing transport, locating parents or guardians, to facilitating accommodation and case support through the non-government sector organisations who provide services for children and young people.
Originating as a recommendation from the Wood Special Inquiry into Children Protection Services in NSW, 2008, and the NSW Government ‘Keep Them Safe’ Action Plan, 2009, the Bail Assistance Line is still in its pilot phase, commencing operations in Dubbo in June 2010, Western Sydney and South Western Sydney in August 2010, and the Hunter/Newcastle area in late November 2010. To date, the BAL has received 335 calls and provided 95 safe accommodation placements for children and young people at risk of entering the juvenile remand system due to issues related to lack of safe accommodation, transport and case support. The bail support services are provided by the non-government sector, and utilise a mixed model of service delivery—in metropolitan and south/western Sydney a house in the community is used for accommodation purposes—staffed on a 24 hour basis. In the Hunter/Newcastle area, foster care placements are provided for a period of up to 28 days.
Whilst the BAL operates primarily to assist Police in finding suitable services for children and young people for whom conditional bail is being considered, the BAL can also, where resources are available, accept referrals from Juvenile Justice Community Services Offices and Centres, from the Children’s Court (particularly weekend Bail Court), as well as via Crisis Response Team/Helpline Staff at Family and Community Services.
The Bail Assistance Line will be evaluated in March 2013.
The NSW youth justice protocol is to only supervise young people on bail who have pleaded guilty. This is outlined in a 2005 Memorandum of Understanding between the NSW Department of Juvenile Justice and the courts. A youth justice stakeholder reported that although each youth justice office has a different approach, role and strategy for dealing with young people on bail and in remanded detention, bail supervision is available statewide.
Bail supervision is triggered by the courts imposing it as a condition of bail. According to information received from the Department of Juvenile Justice, bail supervision is meant to include one direct contact per week and if the bail supervision exceeds four weeks, weekly contact is to be maintained until the completion of a risk assessment. If the young person is assessed as ‘low risk’, the young person can be referred to a community-based agency for further support (but not bail supervision). For those assessed as medium to high risk, bail supervision is to include offence-focused interventions such as the CHART program.
The Department of Attorney General and Justice advises that
as with all of the interventions provided by Juvenile Justice, community-based bail supervision delivers evidence-based and offence focused interventions. As only children and young people who have entered a guilty plea will be receiving bail supervision, this ensures that Juvenile Justice is allocating resources towards those children and young people most in need of offence focused interventions while on bail supervision (personal communication 30 January 2013).
New spending on juvenile bail and remand interventions in NSW resulted in a 9% rise in the agency’s supervised bail undertakings between 2010–11 and 2011–12. Supports provided include the provision of information to the court outlining proposed bail supports and services, assisting young people find suitable accommodation, referral to alcohol and other drug rehabilitation services, and the provision of offence-focused interventions during the bail period. Since the new funding there has also been a decrease in the number of young people in custody who have conditional bail but have not been able to meet the conditions. During 2011–2012 there were 1,480 bail supervisions in NSW with 5,137 remand interventions (remand interventions are conducted by JJ staff to assist suitable young people in custody on remand to obtain bail; personal communication 30 January 2013).
There are a number of community services that provide bail support for young people outside of the NSW statutory youth justice agency. Stakeholders mentioned Mission Australia and Anglicare as two community organisations that have youth workers who provide general support, supervision and case management for young people. These care workers can also provide information for a young person’s bail application and assist in providing information to the court about the young person’s level of support.
As with New South Wales, Victoria’s statutory youth justice agency only supervises young people on bail who have pleaded guilty or where there has been a finding of guilt (and sentence has been deferred). Youth justice provides bail supervision statewide on a case-by-case basis, including:
- assisting with accommodation needs;
- referring the young person to relevant services (eg drug and alcohol counselling);
- linking the young person to education, training or employment; and
- addressing the young person’s criminogenic needs.
Central After Hours Assessment and Bail Placement Service
This is a statewide service available for young people who are facing a bail decision outside of business hours. This is provided by the Department of Human Services and delivers information in matters where police and/or a Bail Justice are considering placing a young person on custodial remand outside of business hours (during business hours the police would contact the regional youth justice unit; Vic DHS 2010). Police are required to notify CAHABPS during these circumstances and allow the young person to be in contact with a CAHABPS worker prior to a bail hearing. The CAHABPS worker will ‘undertake an assessment of the young person’s suitability for bail placement, provide a bail facilitation role and bail advice’ (Vic DHS 2010: 1). The worker can also provide advice to the young person on the nature of the proceedings, their rights and responsibilities and expectations if they are released on bail, and can assist with bail accommodation and refer to additional youth and family support services. This assessment is conducted in person at the police station within the metropolitan area and over the telephone with young people in rural/regional areas.
Youth Justice Intensive Bail Supervision Program (including Koori Intensive Bail Supervision Program)
The objectives of this program are to ‘provide an intensive bail supervision service for young people aged 10–18 years who are at risk of being remanded or re-remanded’ and ‘to divert young people from future involvement in the criminal justice system’ (Vic DHS 2011b: 1). This service is provided by the Victoria Department of Human Services.
A young person can only gain access to this program when it has been set as a bail condition by the courts. However, potential clients can be identified by the Youth Justice Court Advice Service, the police, the program’s case managers, the Children’s Court, Youth Justice Custodial Services, CAHABPS and legal representatives (Vic DHS 2011b. These actors can then refer the young person to be assessed for suitability by the program’s case manager or a Youth Justice Court Advice Service worker. The case manager or the young person’s legal representative can then make the recommendation for the young person to participate in the program as part of their bail to the presiding judicial officer (Vic DHS 2011b. The program is voluntary and young people must consent to participating in the program.
The young person is provided with case management to reduce the risk of them ‘reoffending’ while on bail and to assist them to comply with their bail conditions. The program also assists in addressing the young person’s needs related to accommodation, education and training, employment, health and development, family and other matters.
This program is only available to young people in the North, West and South metropolitan regions. In the North and West regions, the Department collaborates with the community organisation Concern Australia, which provides outreach work with young people in addition to the support provided by the program’s case manager. A preliminary evaluation of the program found that
over 40 young people were effectively supervised in the community, the majority of whom had adhered to their bail conditions, and none had received a custodial order when they returned to court for sentencing (Vic DHS 2011a).
In addition to the metropolitan regions stated above, the Koori Intensive Bail Supervision Program is also available in the Gippsland, Hume and Barwon South West regions (AIHW 2012a). This program aims to provide culturally specific support to Indigenous young people (AIHW 2012a).
Conditional Bail Program
The Conditional Bail Program is ‘aimed at a young person whom the court believes is highly unlikely to comply with bail conditions unless supervised under a structured program’ (Queensland Government 2012b: 2). The program is delivered by Queensland Government youth justice service centres as a form of supervised bail. A young person can only participate in the program if a court makes participation a condition of their bail order. The program is not intended to specifically address alleged offending behaviour or monitor bail conditions that do not involve the Department (Queensland Government 2012b); the majority of young people involved in the program have not entered a guilty plea.
The program is tailored to meet the needs of young people via assessment and a case planning framework. These program and activities may include:
- pro-social or leisure activities;
- initiatives to address immediate personal or developmental needs and strengthen family ties or cultural attachment;
- delivery of the CHART or Aggression Replacement Training programs, to address behaviours that have been assessed as causing problems in the young person’s life or that place them at risk of breaching their bail undertaking;
- re-entry into school, vocational education and training, employment programs, a traineeship or apprenticeship;
- community-based sporting or recreational activities with a developmental focus; and
- activities to support the young person to access other community resources and services.
A 2012 snapshot review of 20 young people on a Conditional Bail Program found that in terms of the outcomes of the program, 11 successfully completed the program and had not subsequently been charged with new or different offences according to the latest available records (Department of Justice and Attorney-General personal communication 30 January 2013).
Youth Bail Accommodation Support Service
This program, delivered by the Youth Advocacy Centre (Queensland Government 2012a), aims to implement support services and developmental interventions (eg independent living skills, family support, access to education, employment and training etc) to increase a young person’s capacity to comply with their bail conditions, maintain stable accommodation and to engage positively with family, pro-social peers and broader community on a sustainable basis (Department of Justice and Attorney-General personal communication 30 January 2013).
The program is based in Brisbane but is also available from the Sunshine Coast through to Ipswich in South East Queensland (Department of Justice and Attorney-General personal communication 30 January 2013). Young people can be referred to Youth Bail Accommodation Support Service by youth justice services or legal representatives. Participation in the program cannot be made a bail condition and is completely voluntary (Department of Justice and Attorney-General personal communication 30 January 2013)
Youth Opportunity Program
The Youth Opportunity program is based in Cairns and is delivered by the non-government organisation ACT for Kids (Queensland Government 2012a). The Youth Opportunity Program consists of a bail support program and a rehabilitation program for young people on youth justice orders. The Bail Support Service provides bail support services within a developmental case management framework in collaboration with the local youth justice services. This includes assessment of a young person’s support and accommodation needs, joint case planning with key stakeholders, providing support and coordinating interventions such as independent living skills, family support, access to education, employment and training etc; providing information, advice and referrals to necessary service and accommodation providers and holding regular reviews to assess progress towards the goals of the case plan (Department of Justice and Attorney-General personal communication 30 January 2013). Young people can be referred to the Youth Opportunity Program by Youth Justice Services, Youth Detention Centres and legal representatives. This service supports approximately 25 young people on bail per year (Department of Justice and Attorney-General personal communication 30 January 2013).
Townsville Bail Support Service
The service is provided by the Murri Watch Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation. It provides ‘living skills development, accommodation assistance and family support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people at risk of being remanded, and their families’ (Queensland Government 2012a: 15). Young people can be referred to this program by Youth Justice Services, Youth Detention Centres and legal representatives (Department of Justice and Attorney-General personal communication 30 January 2013).
Mt Isa Bail Support Service
This program is delivered by the Young People Ahead organisation. It ‘provides assistance to Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people, and their families, at risk of breaching their bail conditions (Department of Justice and Attorney-General personal communication 30 January 2013).
Indigenous Families and Youth Coaching and Mentoring Service
This service is provided by Lifeline Darling Downs and South West Queensland Ltd. and covers the following areas—Roma, Cunnamulla, Charleville, St. George and surrounding areas (Queensland Government 2012a). The Bail Support Service component of the service ‘provides practical assistance to young people on bail, to help them reside in the community, with their family, or extended family, and comply with conditions of bail’ (Qld Government 2012a: 15).
Atherton Bail Support Service
The Atherton Bail Support Service is delivered by Community Services Tablelands Inc. This service provides casework support to young people and their families as part of the Conditional Bail Program or to those who are subject to bail with conditions (Department of Justice and Attorney-General personal communication 30 January 2013).
Supervised Community Accommodation
As part of the 2009 National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, funding was made available to establish the Supervised Community Accommodation service in Townsville. This service is delivered by Mission Australia.
The service provides 24 hour/seven day per week supervised accommodation in the community for young males leaving detention (including young people previously remanded in custody) who are at high risk of homelessness. Young males are provided with case management support within the service to ensure that their developmental and support needs are met. The objectives of the services are to:
- provide supervised accommodation and tailored support to young people based on their developmental and welfare needs; and
- assist young people to develop the skills to transition to semi-independent/independent housing or assist them to reconnect with family.
The target group for this initiative is young males who are:
- aged primarily between 16 and 18 years who are residing in Townsville catchment areas;
- leaving detention on either a supervised release order or bail; and
- are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Since the service opened in November 2010 to the end of the financial year of 2011–12, 12 young people have completed and/or exited the program. For those who have exited the Supervised Community Accommodation in 2011–12:
- six exited to family;
- three exited to further non-government housing/homelessness support providers;
- one exited to a non-government training and accommodation program;
- one exited to a mental health unit; and
- one exited to a youth detention centre (Department of Justice and Attorney-General personal communication 30 January 2013).
Metropolitan Youth Bail Services
The Metropolitan Youth Bail Service (MYBS) was established to avoid the unnecessary custodial remand of young people in circumstances where they have been deemed eligible for bail by the Court, but a responsible adult could not be found, was not considered suitable or was unwilling to sign a bail undertaking on their behalf. MYBS is a government service that delivers supervised bail to young people.
Under the program, Prevention and Diversion Officers are authorised to act as a ‘responsible person’ when no one else can be located. As signatory to the bail undertaking, they have a responsibility to withdraw bail should a breach occur. They also ensure the young person attends the relevant court, at the requested time with an understanding of the court process and why they are there. In addition, MYBS assumes a duty of care to ensure that young people being bailed have access to a safe, secure and supportive living environment.
MYBS functions from multiple sites across the Perth metropolitan area, providing a seven day a week service, with extended hours of coverage during peak arrest times. The service assists young people to obtain bail and meet bail conditions by providing the following services:
- risk assessments (ie offending behaviour, past compliance, safety and wellbeing of the young person and community safety);
- accommodation suitability assessments;
- short-term placements in the MYBS Youth Options Bail facility (see below);
- assisting young people to re-engage with educational, vocational and recreational pursuits;
- undertaking assessment and referral to various mental health and substance misuse programs/facilities;
- providing point of arrest intervention to prevent young people from entering custodial remand by taking up bail at the time of arrest when no other responsible adult can be located;
- maintaining an office at the Perth Children’s Court, providing submissions and advocacy to the judiciary, undertaking assessments and bailing young people directly following their Court appearance. This service is also provided to seven outer metropolitan Children’s Courts;
- maintaining an office at the youth detention facility (at the time of consultations this was Rangeview Remand Centre. As Rangeview has since closed as a youth detention facility, the office is now located at Banksia Hill Detention Centre) to undertake assessments and bail young people from custodial remand;
- family engagement and brief intervention for young people who receive a ‘high end’ police caution; and
- monitoring young people’s curfews.
According to stakeholder consultations, MYBS has substantially expanded since its inception 20 years ago. In its first year of operation, the service conducted 25 placements and in the last year the service conducted 900 placements.
According to consultations, young people are required to telephone the service three times a week. Workers also conduct home visits once or twice a week. An independent third party is employed to determine whether the young person is participating in required programs. Curfews of young people on bail are monitored by police, or by staff if the young person is accommodated in a Youth Options facility. The primary aim of the program is to protect first-time ‘offenders’ who are on the lower end of the offending scale. The MYBS will not sign a young person’s undertaking if they believe they cannot mitigate the risks of young people harming themselves or the community.
According to stakeholder consultations, the service has had approximately 70 percent of young people’s bail orders completed successfully, compared with about half of bail orders with a ‘responsible person’ undertaking . There has also been an increase of Indigenous clients, up from 30 to 54 percent in the previous five years.
Regional Youth Justice Services
The Regional Youth Justice Services Strategy established in the Goldfields, Mid-West Gascoyne, West Kimberley, East Kimberley and Pilbara regions offers a range of services, including:
- an extended-hours bail service to help police make suitable young people eligible for bail;
- an extended-hours bail service to help police make suitable young people eligible for bail. As with the MYBS, this service also assists in locating suitable adults to provide bail for eligible young people, or short placements in the MYBS Youth Options Bail facility;
- emergency short-stay accommodation for young people who have been granted bail but have noone to bail them and nowhere to go;
- an expanded Juvenile Justice Team to target young offenders who are in the early stages of offending and divert them from the formal justice system; and
- education and counselling services.
Youth Bail Options Facilities and Program
Drug Arm and Life Without Barriers are two non-government organisations contracted to provide regional bail support for young people.
Drug Arm offers short-term accommodation for young people on bail that are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week in Armadale, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and Port Hedland (Drug Arm WA 2011). The service also provides within the facility a day program that aims to reengage young people with education (Drug Arm WA 2011).
Life Without Barriers provide a host family for a young person to live with until another responsible person can be found to sign their bail undertaking. This service is available in the Broome/Kununurra region (Life Without Barriers 2011).
In South Australia, supervised bail is administered by Community Youth Justice, Youth Justice Directorate within the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion. Bail conditions are set by the court. Community Youth Justice may also set goals with the young person on bail (eg school attendance), but these are not formal bail conditions and the young person cannot be ‘breached’ for failing to adhere to these goals.
Bail supervision for young people is not currently available from youth justice (Department of Health and Human Services) in Tasmania. However, under tabled amendments to the Youth Justice Act 1997, youth justice workers can be required to establish and implement an intervention plan for young people released on a bail order who have had their sentence deferred by the courts (Department of Health and Human Services personal communication 22 February 2013). Currently, a non-government organisation provides voluntary bail support, as outlined below.
Save the Children
Non-government organisation ‘Save the Children’ operates the Bail Support Program in Tasmania (see Daly 2012 for more information). This is a voluntary program, but a Magistrate may order a mandatory meeting of the young person with Save the Children workers. The process begins with a Bail Support Plan that the workers construct with the young person to outline their goals and aspirations. This Plan is submitted to the Magistrate for consideration in a bail decision. However, the goals are time-dependent and have to coincide with the length of the bail order. A progress report is then submitted to the Magistrate to inform his/her decision about sentencing. This program is only available in the South area and for young people who are not child protection clients.
According to a representative of the organisation interviewed for this research, 62 percent of young people approached do not choose to engage in the program, primarily because a large proportion of young people believe they do not need support because they have made a ‘stupid mistake’ and already have support from their family.
Young people are not sent back to court if they ‘breach’ the conditions of their bail plan. Their lack of engagement and/or missed appointments are, however, noted in their progress report, which is submitted to the Magistrate and reflected in their sentence.
Supervised Bail Program
Supervised bail is a territory-wide program administered by the Northern Territory Department of Correctional Services. Under the program, Northern Territory Community Corrections provides compliance and surveillance management for young people placed on supervised bail orders. This usually comprises regular curfew and school attendance checks, and alcohol and other drugs tests. The court may include additional requirements on a case-by-case basis, such as referral options for the management of substance abuse.
Prior to the commencement of the order, Northern Territory Community Corrections will conduct a bail assessment, which includes a review of family welfare and home environment.
Australian Capital Territory
After-hours Bail Support Service
This service aims to divert young people from custodial remand with a focus on those with fresh charges. It focuses on finding accommodation for those who have breached their bail conditions or are at risk of breaching bail conditions. The service also provides assistance in getting ‘reside as directed’ conditions changed as well as overall support for bail applications and during release on bail. Staff are in the office from 5 pm to 11 pm and on-call until 2 am on weekdays, and on-call from 4 pm to 2 am on weekends and public holidays.
A recent internal evaluation showed that there had been a 17 percent reduction in short-term custodial remand episodes at the Bimberi Youth Detention Centre in the After-hours Bail Support Service’s first six months of operation and it had helped divert 21 young people from custody between November 2011 and April 2012 (ACT Government 2012).
The Office for Children, Youth and Family Support (OCYFS) provides supervised bail to young people regardless of their plea status. According to stakeholder consultations, staff members work to establish areas of need and construct a plan for the young person. Sometimes the OCYFS is given specific instructions by the Magistrate about addressing the young person’s needs during their supervised bail.
One challenge identified during consultations is supervising young people who have not pleaded guilty. It is important that staff avoid any discussion of untried charges or other offences the young person has not been charged with, to prevent becoming a witness. The bail status of the young person also limits the capacity of OCYFS staff to address the criminogenic needs of the young person. For this reason, staff tend to focus on the broader issues unrelated to specific criminogenic needs, such as accommodation, attitudes to women, schooling and relationships as part of their supervision.
A number of important issues emerge from this information about bail support services for young people in Australia.
Lack of evaluations of bail support services for young people
First, it is clear that few evaluations of bail support service for young people have been conducted. The evidence about effective bail support for young people in Australia is therefore very limited. As providing effective bail support has been identified as an important factor in reducing remand rates (Denning-Cotter 2008), a key recommendation of this report is that good-quality evaluations of bail support services provided to young alleged offenders be carried out.
A review of international literature on the elements of effective bail support programs posited the following ‘principles of best practice’:
- voluntary participation rather than mandatory intervention;
- support and intervention;
- holistic, with broad needs assessment and response, providing information, support and intervention as required;
- coordinated and interdepartmental, to provide access to pathways across different service systems; and
- adaptable and responsive to local conditions (Denning-Cotter 2008).
Small numbers of young people participating in bail support programs
Next, in some instances, it appears that only small numbers of young people are participating in bail support programs. For example, as described above, 40 young people took part in Victoria’s Intensive Bail Supervision Program in during 2010–11.
Figures are not currently available for all the programs described above and it is not uniformly the case that only small numbers of young people participate in bail support programs. It is nonetheless worth considering why, in some cases, only small numbers of young people access bail support, whether it is desirable to have larger numbers of young people accessing such support and if so, what might be done to increase young people’s access to bail support services. These issues are touched on further below.
Lack of bail support in regional, rural and remote areas
As is clear from the above description of current programs, many bail support services are available in metropolitan areas only. For example, the Bail Assistance Line in New South Wales is available only in Sydney and Newcastle. Although some jurisdictions have bail support services in place in some regional areas (see in particular the programs described in the Queensland and Western Australia sections above), support for young people from rural and remote areas in particular is a clear service gap.
It should also be noted that although Indigenous-specific programs for young people in regional areas (such as Victoria’s Koori Intensive Bail Supervision Program) are laudable, equating young people from regional areas with Indigenous young people creates a service gap for non-Indigenous young people in these areas.
Purpose of bail support programs
The programs described above vary according to whether they assist young people get bail in the first instance or remain on bail by meeting their bail conditions. For example, while WA’s Metropolitan Youth Bail Services assist young people to get bail by having a staff member act as a ‘responsible person’ for the young person’s bail undertaking, SA’s system of bail supervision helps young people remain on bail by providing case management for the young person. Some programs address both of these aims.
Ultimately, these two types of programs have the same aim—avoiding the unnecessary placement of young people on custodial remand. It is nonetheless worth recognising these two program types, as well as that not all jurisdictions have both types in place. Determining which type of program is most effective in reducing the number of young people placed on custodial remand is beyond the scope of this report; nonetheless, it may be valuable for jurisdictions to consider their existing program coverage in this regard.
Lack of engagement with young people with complex needs and/or offending histories
While a number of the bail support programs described above focus specifically on young people with complex needs and/or histories of offending or non-compliance with orders, others intentionally exclude these young people. For example, Tasmania’s Save the Children program excludes ‘clients’ of the child protection system.
Although intervening with young people before they become entrenched in offending careers is a laudable aim, it is undoubtedly the case that young people with complex needs and histories of offending are those who are least likely to be granted bail. To some extent, therefore, programs that exclude these young people miss a key opportunity to reduce the number of young people on custodial remand by focusing on those most likely to be granted bail.
Whether young people are required to plead guilty to participate in bail support programs
Another important distinction among the programs described above is whether young people are required to plead guilty (or otherwise acknowledge guilt) in order to participate. This is an important issue, since there is some debate about whether young people who have not pleaded guilty should be encouraged or even required to participate in programs designed to address their alleged offending behaviour. While young people who have not yet had a court hearing are technically innocent (ie they are ‘innocent until proven guilty’) and should therefore not be required to address their alleged offending, it has been argued that in many cases, not intervening in the life of a young person in trouble with the law represents a missed opportunity (Mazerolle & Sanderson 2008). For example, a young person may be technically innocent on a current charge, but may have prior convictions and may be becoming entrenched in a pattern of offending.
Some bail support services attempt to overcome this difficulty by working with young people irrespective of their plea status on issues not directly related to offending. For example, the ACT’s supervised bail service works with young people on broader issues of accommodation, education and relationships, rather than their more specific criminogenic needs.
It is beyond the scope of this report to consider which of these approaches is best, or which has been shown to be most effective. It is nonetheless an important issue for each jurisdiction’s statutory youth justice agency to consider.
Increased monitoring and scrutiny of young people
As has been highlighted in this report, young people who come under increased scrutiny while on bail appear to be more likely to breach their bail conditions than other young people. This research found, for example, that young people who are in out-of-home care while completing a bail period come under increased scrutiny and that this increased scrutiny often results in these young people coming back to court for breaches of bail that may not have come to the notice of authorities if they were living with their families.
It is interesting to note, in light of this, that some bail support programs for young people appear to intentionally increase the monitoring of young people on bail. For example, the NT’s Supervised Bail Program has a focus on bail compliance. While these approaches undoubtedly aim to assist young people to remain in the community on bail, it is worth considering to what extent the increased monitoring of young people is consistent with this aim.
Stakeholders interviewed for this study were unanimous in considering bail support services and programs to be an important component of any strategy that aims to reduce the use of custodial remand for young people. Bail support services and programs were conceptualised by some stakeholders as simply providing bail decision makers with an option other than custodial remand. This was seen as particularly vital in jurisdictions in which case managed supervised bail is not available for young people.
A police stakeholder from one jurisdiction criticised the bail support on offer to young people in that jurisdiction for a range of reasons, including that program staff did not enforce mandated meetings with bail supervisors, there was a lack of individualisation or structure to the program and activities provided to the young person, and there was a lack of reporting consistent breaches of bail supervision to the police. This suggests a lack of clarity about the purpose of bail support services and programs, and the goals that bail support services and programs are designed to achieve. Further, it suggests that, as outlined elsewhere in this report, there is a lack of consensus among the key players in bail and remand decisions—police, youth justice staff, Magistrates and service providers—about what bail is designed to achieve for young people and about what the best strategies to achieve the aims of bail might be. A review of the international evidence about what works in bail support for young people would provide useful information for Australian jurisdictions.