Police and Vulnerability in Bail Decisions


Since bail legislation was enacted in the 1970s, Australia has experienced a continual increase in the number of prisoners on remand. Amendments to bail legislation and police discretion have been shown to contribute to this increase. Further, an accused’s vulnerability affects whether they are granted or denied bail, with vulnerable people being more likely to be denied bail. Vulnerability in the criminal justice system refers to factors such as race, age, sex and socioeconomic status. Many vulnerable people have multiple intersecting vulnerabilities, which further compounds their contact with the justice system. This study employed a qualitative content analysis of bail legislation for the Australian states of New South Wales (NSW), Tasmania, and Victoria, along with key correlating second reading speeches. The aim was to better understand the way in which bail decision-makers, such as police, consider vulnerability when making decisions about bail, in particular, if and how they are legislated to consider factors relating to vulnerability. The research found that only police in NSW and Victoria were required to consider an accused’s vulnerability explicitly under the law. Although legislation may cater for varying vulnerabilities, intersecting vulnerabilities are not considered.

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Published: 2022-09-01
Pages:122 to 138
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How to Cite
Hughes, D., Colvin, E. and Bartkowiak-Théron, I. (2022) “Police and Vulnerability in Bail Decisions”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 11(3), pp. 122-138. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.1905.

Author Biographies

Charles Sturt University

Danielle Hughes has a keen interest in crime and social justice. She graduated her Bachelor of Criminal Justice with Distinction from Charles Sturt University in 2018. Danielle returned to Charles Sturt University to complete her Criminal Justice Honours in 2020. Danielle is currently employed as a paralegal and is due to finish her Bachelor of Laws in 2022. 

Charles Sturt University

Dr Emma Colvin is a Senior Lecturer in Law and Criminology at the Centre for Law and Justice at Charles Sturt University. Dr Colvin's research explores different aspects of access to justice for vulnerable/marginalised groups.  Her most recent projects have explored access to tertiary education for care leavers, bail decision-making in Australia, and the criminalisation of children in out-of-home-care.  She has been awarded funding from the Collier Charitable Fund and the Australian Institute of Criminology.

University of Tasmania

Dr Isabelle Bartkowiak-Théron specializes in socio-legal studies, with a particular interest in police interaction with vulnerable people. She is the lead senior researcher on the vulnerability, police education, and law enforcement and public health research streams at the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies. At the University of Tasmania, Isabelle coordinated the Tasmania Police Recruit Course for the University for 10 years, before moving on to other roles. Currently, she is the graduate research coordinator for the discipline of Policing and Emergency Management, and she has been the deputy chair of the Tasmanian Human Research Ethics Committee since 2018. Isabelle holds a number of leadership positions locally, nationally, and internationally.