Remand in Custody -- A Systemic Analysis of a Growing Problem

David Bamford, Flinders University of South Australia
Susan King, University of South Australia
Rick Sarre, University of South Australia

Bail and remand in custody issues have attracted the attention of a wide range of observers of, and participants in, the criminal justice system. While many of the unsatisfactory aspects of the law relating to bail were recognised by the middle of the twentieth century, it is only in the last forty years that there has been a concerted effort both to study and to alter the law. In both the United States and the United Kingdom significant bail law reform occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. Australia followed with major bail law reform in the 1970s and 1980s, with inquiries into the state of the law of bail in almost every jurisdiction leading to legislative reform.

In the last decade there has been increasing recognition that legislative and administrative reforms have not achieved the desired results. While prison populations are continuing grow at an increasing rate, the segment of the prison population growing fastest is remandees awaiting trial. Some 20% of the over 21,000 prisoners in Australia are currently on remand awaiting disposition of their case .

The growth in prison population awaiting trial has become an increasing concern for both criminological and social policy analysts and for governments faced with the budgetary implications. This has led to a number of government-sponsored studies aimed at investigating custodial remand processes. One aspect of the remand in custody picture, the different rates of remand in custody across Australian jurisdictions despite apparently similar legislation, attracted the attention of the Australian Criminology Research Council (the 'CRC'). In 1998 the CRC engaged the authors of this paper to conduct the first stage of a multi-jurisdictional study in which the factors affecting rates of remand in custody were to be identified. As a result of the findings of that study, which are reported in Bamford, King and Sarre , the CRC has engaged the authors to carry out a multi-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional quantitative and qualitative research project on the remand in custody process which is due to be completed in mid-2003.

This paper describes the theoretical perspective adopted for the remand study with its emphasis on the systemic analysis of the remand in custody process. It describes the remand in custody process and identifies factors affecting outcomes at each stage of the process and suggests a new tool for identifying performance of the remand in custody systems.

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Updated 05/20/2006