Bail and surety
If you are arrested and charged with an offence, you will be brought before a District Court as soon as possible. You can make an application in court to be released from custody on bail.
Bail is when you are released from custody because you have:
- Promised to appear in court for your trail, or
- Promised to appear in court for your trail, and agreed to pay a bond (sum of money) to the court if you don’t show up for your trial
Bail is based on the principle that the accused is presumed innocent until proved guilty.
If you enter into a bail bond, you are agreeing to appear in court to answer the charges made against you.
If you are sent for trial in the Special Criminal Court you cannot get bail unless the Director of Public Prosecutions allows it.
Sureties or bails-persons
Types of bail
When a Garda brings you into custody to a Garda station, the station can release you on bail with or without sureties. The amount of money specified in the bail bond is set by the Garda in charge of the station. You must enter into a bond to appear before the District Court on a specific date.
When you are brought before the District Court, the judge can hold you in custody or release you conditionally when you enter into a bail bond (with or without surety). The amount of money specified in the bail bond is set by the judge.
If you are granted bail you (or your surety) must pay the court at least one-third of the amount of money promised in the bail bond. This money will be returned to you if you appear in court as promised.
The Director of Public Prosecutions can appeal to the High Court if it is unhappy with decision to grant you bail, or the conditions of your bail.
If the District Court refuses bail, you will be remanded in custody. You can appeal the decision to the High Court.
High Court bail
The District Court cannot grant you bail if you are charged with:
- War crimes
- Attempted murder
- Conspiracy to murder
- Certain offences under the Offences Against the State Act 1939
- Certain offences under the Official Secrets Act 1963
In those cases, you or your legal representative must apply to the High Court for bail.
Considerations of the court
- The District Court will consider the following factors when deciding if
it will grant you bail:
- Whether you are likely to flee
- Whether you are likely to commit a serious offence while on bail if you are charged with a serious offence. (A serious offence is one which you can be punished by 5 years imprisonment or more.)
- Whether you were caught red-handed
- Whether you are likely to interfere with evidence, witnesses or jurors
- Whether you have breached a bail bond before
- Your character and previous criminal record
- Your circumstances (whether you have a family, a job, a house)
- Whether you have roots in the jurisdiction, for example, property, family, employment
- Whether you are willing to keep to certain conditions, for example if you will surrender your passport
- The seriousness of the offence
- The likely sentence if you are convicted
- The strength of the evidence against you
- Whether the Gardaí object to you being granted bail
People who cannot be sureties or bails-persons
A court cannot reject a person as a surety simply because of their moral character or political opinions. However, a surety can be rejected if it is clear that they could not pay the amount of money specified in the bail-bond if it was breached.
The following people may not be accepted as bails-persons:
- The accused's solicitor
- People under 18 years of age
- People in custody
- People with previous convictions
- People who have recently been declared bankrupt by order of the court
Refusal of bail
If an application for bail is made by someone charged with a serious offence, the court can refuse the application. The grounds for refusal are set out in Section 2 of the Bail Act, 1997. The court can refuse the application if it is considered necessary in order to prevent the person from committing a serious offence while they are on bail. The court takes the following items into account when deciding whether to refuse bail:
- Evidence or submissions about the nature and seriousness of the crime
- The severity of the punishment for the offence
- The strength of the case against the accused
- The prospect of a reasonably speedy trial
- The opposition of the Attorney General
- The accused’s previous convictions, if any, including convictions that are the subject of an appeal (these are convictions which have not been determined or withdrawn)
- Any other offences that the accused person is charged with and is awaiting trial for
Consequences of breaching a bail bond
If you do not appear in court as agreed:
- A bench warrant will be issued for your arrest. This means that the Gardaí have been ordered to arrest you and bring you before the court.
- You will lose the money that you or your independent surety agreed to pay in the bail bond
- You will have committed another criminal offence for breaking the bail bond. This offence carries a maximum penalty of a Class A fine and/or 12 months imprisonment.
- You will be refused bail in the future
If you have reasonable cause for missing your court date you can present this to the court. Possible reasons might include an illness, family emergency, or a family death. However, the court may not accept your excuse, this is at their discretion.
How to apply
After you are arrested and brought to a Garda station, the person in charge of the station may decide to release you on station bail. They will grant bail if they "consider it prudent to do so". They cannot release you on bail if there is a court warrant for your detention.
If you are granted bail at the station, you will have to enter into a bond to appear in the District Court as agreed. You may have to pay a sum of money and you may also have to get an independent surety to guarantee that you will appear in court as agreed.