All criminal prosecutions are initiated in the District Court with the exception of certain offences dealt with by the Special Criminal Court (generally offences against the State).

Bail is when a person enters a written bond, also known as recognisance, committing to appear before the court to answer the charges made against them.  Bail is based on the principal that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  A person may be required to lodge money as part of their bail.

Types of bail

Station bail:  A person arrested and brought to a Garda station can be charged by way of charge sheet and released on station bail to appear before a court at a specific date and time.  They may be required to lodge money before being released from Garda custody.

District Court bail: When a person is brought before the court, the judge may release them on bail and set conditions attached to the bail.  The person may be required to lodge money before being released from court.

The court may decide that an independent surety is required to guarantee the appearance of the accused person.  An independent surety is a person who makes him or herself responsible for the appearance of the accused person in court.  He or she promises to pay a sum of money to the court if the accused person does not appear as agreed.  The court must approve the independent surety.

High Court bail: When a person is charged with treason, war crimes, murder, attempt to murder, conspiracy to murder or piracy and genocide, the District Court does not have the power to grant them bail. Certain offences under the Offences Against the State Act, 1939 and the Official Secrets Act, 1963 also rule out the granting of bail in the District Court. In those cases, the accused person or their legal representative must apply to the High Court for bail.

Appeal to High Court

A person refused bail in the District Court may appeal to the High Court.  A person may also appeal to the High Court to reduce the amount of bail or to contest a condition of the bail set by the District Court.

Refund of bail

Bail money is returned when the case is completed in court and all conditions set by the court have been complied with.  It is not returned if the accused person fails to appear in court.  In that case the bail amount is estreated (or forfeited).

If you fail to comply with any of the bail conditions, the judge will issue a bench warrant. The warrant gives An Garda Síochána power to arrest you and bring you before the court to answer all charges relating to the bail. A breach of bail may also result in an additional charge against you.