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Applying for Bail in the Northern Territory

When a person in the Northern Territory is charged with criminal offences, they may be summonsed to come to court or arrested. If a person is arrested, a bail determination will be made. Bail is the conditional release of a person before their criminal matter is finalised. If bail is refused, the person is remanded in custody. This article deals with bail in the Northern Territory.

Police bail

An authorised police officer will first look at whether bail should be granted. If police bail is granted, conditions for the person’s release from custody will be set. These conditions will always include appearing in court at a later date and there may also be other conditions, including residence or conduct conditions. A sum of money (a guarantor or surety) may have to be promised or deposited. When the defendant signs the bail undertaking acknowledging that they will comply with the bail conditions, they can be released from custody.

Court bail

There is no limit to how many times bail applications can be made to a court but the court may refuse to hear a bail application if it thinks it is vexatious or frivolous. If bail is refused by the court, the maximum adjournment is for 15 days.

The Supreme Court can review the conditions set by the court, including a refusal to grant bail. A magistrate or justice cannot consider bail for a matter in the Supreme Court. The law on bail in the Northern Territory is governed by the Bail Act. If the offence is a commonwealth crime there are further rules set out in the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) which must be considered.

Criteria for granting bail

In deciding whether to grant bail the police, justice or magistrate must consider whether it is likely the accused will appear in court. In making the decision they will consider certain matters that are set out in the Bail Act.

These include:

  • the person’s background and community ties as shown by their living arrangements, employment, family and previous criminal record;
  • the circumstances of the offence, including the strength of the police case, how serious it is and the likely penalty;
  • the likelihood that the person will or will not come to court;
  • the interests of the accused, including the conditions they would be held in custody under and how long they are likely to be held, and their need to be free for any lawful purpose (work, family, preparing their legal case etc). If a person is intoxicated, injured, drug affected or is in danger of injury or in need of protection they may remain in custody.
  • the likelihood that the person would commit an offence, including a breach of the bail, if released;
  • the community’s interests, including any risk that the person may, if allowed bail, interfere with evidence, witnesses, jurors, victims or their relatives, or that they may affect the welfare or safety of a person. The police must tell the person considering bail if the victim is concerned that their release could lead to a risk to them and their reasons for that concern.

Bail presumptions

For many offences (particularly minor offences) there is a presumption that bail should be granted.

For other offences, bail must not be granted unless the police or court is satisfied that it should not be refused. These offences include certain drug offences, terrorism, murder, treason, serious animal cruelty offences, some serious sexual and violence offences and some offences committed while on bail or following previous convictions for serious offences or while subject to a sentencing order, or if the person is charged with breaching an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (in some circumstances).

A person charged with one or more of these offences may still be released on bail if the court considers it appropriate.

If the person applying for bail is a juvenile, the are different bail presumptions that apply.

Breach of bail

It is an offence for a person to breach any of the conditions of their bail, or to fail to come to court. The police can arrest a person for breach of bail and bring them to court. The court will decide whether to continue, revoke or vary bail in this situation. The court must revoke bail if the person was charged with a serious violence offence and released on bail despite the presumption against bail.

Once bail has been revoked, a fresh application for bail can be made. The maximum penalty for breaching a bail is $29,800.00 and/or imprisonment for two years, but the penalty imposed for the breach cannot be more than the maximum penalty for the original offence. It is a defence to the charge if the person has a reasonable excuse for the breach.

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


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is a Legal Practice Director at Go To Court Lawyers. She holds a Juris Doctor, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master of Criminology. She was admitted to practice in 2006. Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. 
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