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Bail Applications: What does “show cause” mean?

If you or a family member are faced with having to apply for bail in court, one of the first things your lawyer will speak to you about is...

Justin Wong

If you or a family member are faced with having to apply for bail in court, one of the first things your lawyer will speak to you about is whether your matter is “show cause” or not.

What is “Show Cause”?

In NSW for bail, generally offences are split into two categories, show cause offences and non-show cause offences.

Show cause offences include serious offences carrying life imprisonment such as murder, serious firearms offences, some sexual offences where the alleged victim is under 16, or supply or importation of commercial quantities of drugs. For these offences, a person applying for bail must show why his or her ongoing detention is not justified.

Show cause can also apply to serious offences alleged to have been committed when a person is on bail, parole or some other form of supervision.

If an offence is show cause, a person applying for bail must first demonstrate to a court why they should be granted bail. The onus is on the applicant.

What kind of things can “show cause”?

There is no definition or exhaustive list. However cause can be shown by a “single powerful factor”, or a combination of factors. These might include for example a combination of a weak Crown case, a very substantial security offered, delay, a lack of any criminal record, or health issues.

What if cause is shown?

If cause is shown, the court then considers whether the person is an unacceptable risk of:

  1. committing a serious offence whilst on bail;
  2. failing to attend court;
  3. endangering the safety of the community; or,
  4. interfering with witnesses or evidence.

If there is no unacceptable risk, bail is granted.

However the considerations for show cause and unacceptable risk often overlap and the court can consider them together.