Understanding the criminal justice process | What is bail? 

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(This column is intended to address commonly asked questions about the criminal justice process for defendants. We intend to explain the roles of the various persons at each stage in this process beginning with the arrest and questioning stage and concluding with further information and resources. We will also address how long you can be held in custody and other rights and responsibilities you should be aware of. This column in no way replaces your need to personally consult your attorney-at-law or your own readings on the existing law ( Prepared by Sparman and Small attorneys-at-law)

What is bail? 

Bail is a process whereby a defendant is released on condition(s) pending the determination of his/her trial.

What does it mean to be released on your own RECOGNIZANCE?


This means that a defendant is released Pre-trial without offering any type of tangible security/collateral (money or property) to the court. As such, there is also no requirement for a surety in this instance. However, this will not preclude any other condition/requirement from being imposed to guarantee the defendant’s court attendance.

What does the term surety mean in the bail application context? 

A surety is an individual that guarantees the defendant’s court attendance(s) subsequent to his/her bail application being granted. In some instances the surety is required to offer some form of tangible security/collateral to the court on the defendant’s behalf. However, any such security/ collateral is forfeited if the defendant subsequently fails to appear at court or fails to comply with any of the imposed bail conditions.

Do I have a right to bail? 

In most Commonwealth Caribbean territories bail is implicitly recognised as a constitutional right because upon being charged, it is constitutionally guaranteed that a person who is not tried within a reasonable time is entitled to be released either unconditionally or upon reasonable conditions. In Guyana, article 139(4) of the Constitution clearly asserts this position. Further, in Barbados, the Barbados Bail Act at section 4(1) and (2) provides that “a defendant shall be entitled to bail. Where bail is granted, the conditions of bail shall be reasonable”.

Is bail available for the offence of Murder? 

In most Commonwealth Caribbean territories it is expressly stated that murder and other offences such as treason and some sexual offences are non-bailable. This position is also supported by the common law. In Barbados, Section 5(4) of the Barbados Bail Act provides that a person charged with murder, treason, high treason or an indictable offence under the Firearms Act shall not be granted bail except by a High Court judge”. Further, in Trinidad, the Trinidad Bail Act provides at section 5(1) that bail cannot be granted at all where a person is charged with murder, treason, piracy or hijacking, or any offence for which death is the penalty. However, although Guyana follows the common law and its courts can be persuaded by other Commonwealth Caribbean rulings, local cases show that an application for bail can be entertained and granted for the offence of murder

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