Bail and “police bond” are premised on two fundamental aspects of human rights:
Children are also eligible for bail and “police bond” if they can provide a working, qualified surety (the police officers often require two). Another requirement is that the accused, as well as those providing sureties must provide proof of a fixed abode, i.e. a traceable permanent physical address (which is difficult if one lives in a compound). They can also be granted bail or “police bond” on their own recognizance, but this is rare. It is necessary for the police to require sureties because they need to be assured of the child offender’s attendance at court at the specified date and time. Differing from “police bond”, which is granted FREE of charge by the police, bail is granted by the court and can come in the form of a cash bail, where cash is paid into court upfront, and the surety is forfeited if the accused person absconds.
Keeping children out of pre-trial detention by bailing them out in the first place will reduce the numbers of children exposed to violence in these settings. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has indicated in General Comment No 10 that no child should be detained by the police for more than 24 hours without a judicial order. The longer the period spent by a child in police custody without the knowledge of the court and possibly without the knowledge of family or guardian, the greater the risk of abuse taking place. ACJ believes that a child should be brought before the Court immediately or released on “police bond” unless it is a serious offence or would ‘undermine justice’ to do so.
When ACJ started prison visits, they discovered that children who were interviewed had been held in remand for weeks, months and some even years with no court trial dates. This shows that more children spend more than 24 hours in detention before they are brought before court. Due to lack of speedy trial of children in remand for non-serious crimes, ACJ promotes children’s right to bail, and a fair and speedy trial. So we assist in finding lawyers willing to provide legal representation for free or at a minimal fee. Legislation should be introduced that imposes greater restrictions on the use of pre-trial detention so that it is only used as a last resort and for the shortest possible period of time where there is a risk of absconding and/or if a child is a danger to himself or herself.
For children, the problem lies with their ability to find working sureties. Children are subject to the same rights as adults, in that they can apply for bail to be released while awaiting trial and further investigation. They are often denied bail, however, because they are unable to reach their parents to sign as sureties or they are unable to provide a residential address; thus they fail to meet a requirement for their release.