How do operational police approach their decision to refuse bail?

Mr Cliff Sayer1
1Flinders University, Bedford Park, SA

Australia’s prison population is increasing at a concerning rate. A significant proportion of this growth is attributed to the prisoners who, whilst not convicted, are being held ‘on remand’ pending the outcome of whatever criminal justice process with which they may be involved.
Their situation as a remandee flies in the face of a fundamental tenants of the criminal justice system: the principle of the presumption of innocence. It also comes at significant personal and public cost.
Despite this Australian governments incrementally have removed the presumption of innocence for specific categories of offences. Thus a significant proportion of those being held are those who have run foul of these legislative exclusions.
South Australia has long been the state with the highest proportion of remandees. The research will initially quantify the various bases upon which remandees are being held.
Previous extensive research has outlined some of the factors affecting the decisions to remand. Importantly the previous research identifies as critical the relatively unscrtunised role and influence of the operational police in the decision to release on bail or remand in custody.
This research proposes to analyse the factors, including the information that operational police consider in coming to their decision to refuse bail to an alleged offender. The decision to allow an alleged offenders release on bail or to remand in custody is clearly an assessment of risk by operational police. The research proposes analysing the risk assessment decisions, particularly with respect to consideration of a ‘reasoned evaluation’ or ‘subjective confidence’.


Bachelor Arts – University of NSW 1975 – 1991
Bachelor Law / Legal Practice Flinders University 2000 to 2003
Admitted to Supreme Court of South Australia December 2003.
Associate to Justice Debelle 2004 – 2005
Solicitor – Von Doussas 2005 to 2012
Master of Social Work – Flinders University 2013 to 2014
Solicitor – WK Lawyers 2014 to 2016
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