Applying For Bail in the Youth Justice Court (NT)

When a young person is charged with offences in the Northern Territory, they may be granted bail or remanded in custody. If the police do not grant a young person bail, they must bring them to court at the earliest opportunity so that they can apply for bail in front of a magistrate. Decisions about bail are made under the Bail Act 1982. This article deals with applying for bail in the Youth Justice Court.

Bail and young people

When a young person attends court for a criminal matter, they must be accompanied by a responsible adult. This is usually a parent or guardian.

When a young person applies for bail, their application must be supported by their responsible adult, who is usually the person they are proposing to live with if they are granted bail.  

When a young person is remanded, they are held in youth detention, either in Don Dale Detention Centre or in Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre.

Bail presumptions

Under the Bail Act, a person’s chances of getting bail are determined by the offence/s they have been charged with and the person’s bail history. The bail presumptions that apply to young people are different to those that apply to adults.

Presumption against bail

Under section 7A, the presumption is against bail if the person applying for bail is charged with certain types of serious offences. These include murder, drug offences punishable by imprisonment for seven years or more and serious offences allegedly committed while on bail in respect of another serious offence.

If a young person is applying for bail and the presumption is against bail, the court must not grant bail unless they have satisfied the court that bail should be granted.

Presumption in favour of bail

Under section 8, the presumption is in favour of bail if the young person applying for bail is not charged with a prescribed offence. Prescribed offences are listed in the Bail Regulations 1983 and include sexual offences, serious assaults, robbery and stealing. This provision does not apply to a young person who has committed a serious breach of bail.

A young person who is charged with an offence where the presumption is in favour of bail must be granted bail unless the court is satisfied that refusing bail is justified, with reference to the factors set out below.

The presumption is no longer in favour of bail in a matter where the youth has already been convicted.

Should bail be granted?

When deciding whether to grant a person bail, courts must consider the following factors.

  • The probability they will appear at court to finalise the charges;
  • The interests of the person;
  • The risk they would interfere with witnesses, evidence or jurors if bailed;
  •  The risk they would commit an offence or breach their bail conditions;
  • The risk their release would pose to the safety or welfare of others;

When deciding whether to grant a youth bail, the Youth Justice Court must also consider:

  • The need to consider all other options before remanding the young person in custody;
  • The need to preserve the young person’s relationships with their family or carers;
  • The desirability of allowing the young person’s living arrangements to continue uninterrupted;
  • The desirability of allowing the young person’s education, training or employment to continue uninterrupted;
  • The need to minimise the stigma resulting from incarceration;
  • The likely sentence should the youth be found guilty;
  • The young person’s prior exposure to trauma;
  • The young person’s cognitive capacity, health and developmental needs;
  • If the young person is Indigenous, their cultural background and needs.

Bail conditions

A young person who is granted bail may be required to abide by a range of conditions, depending on their circumstances and the circumstances of the alleged offending.

Common bail conditions for youths include:

  • To attend school every day;
  • Not to consume alcohol or drugs and to submit to testing when required by police;
  • Not to associate with alleged co-offenders;
  • To abide by a curfew.

In some situations, a youth may also be required to attend a program such as a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program while on bail.

Breaches of bail

If a young person breaches the conditions of their bail, they will be brought back before the Youth Justice Court. The court may revoke the youth’s bail and remand them in detention, alter the conditions of the bail, or take no action, depending on the nature of the breach.

If a young person engages in a serious breach of bail (such as committing a prescribed offence while on bail) the court may grant them bail again only if they enter into a conduct agreement stating that they agree to abide by certain requirements while on bail.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

Author

Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection, domestic violence and family law in the Northern Territory and Queensland.
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