Report No. 268
K. Risk Assessment
11.30 Pre-trial risk assessment is the determination of qualitative value of risk related to a pretrial defendant and his specific circumstances287. Risk management means balancing the constitutional rights of the defendant with the risk the defendant poses, using effective supervision and strategic interventions288. In the risk assessment process the arrested accused is brought to the station where, after identification, booking, search, questioning, and fingerprinting, community ties are investigated along with a set of pre-determined factors. If the defendant is found to be a good risk, the officer is authorized to release him with on a personal bond with or without sureties. Additionally, this procedure saves substantial police, investigating authorities and Court time and economises the operation of detention facilities.
11.31 In 1961, the Vera Institute of Justice launched the Manhattan Bail Project in New York City. Various scholars289 observed that defendants with strong ties with the community were likely to return to court if released on personal recognizance. The project targeted accused that were in jail though ordered to be released on bonds which they could not afford. The report recommended for non-financial release of those who had strong ties. The results showed that these defendants were just as likely to come back to court as those who executed a money bond to be released. Moreover, the project found that when judges were given verified information about defendants, including assessments about their likelihood of appearing in court, these defendants were three times more likely to be released on personal recognizance than comparison group of defendants who had no risk assessments .The Manhattan Bail Project was also referred to by the Supreme Court in the Moti Ram case290.
11.32 Factors that could be considered when making a risk assessment are:
- Whether there are reasonable grounds for believing that he has committed the offence;
- Nature and gravity of the offence charged;
- Severity of the potential punishment if the trial results in conviction;
- Preponderance of evidence;
- The danger of absconding;
- The character, means and standing of the accused;
- Danger of the alleged offence continuing or being repeated if granted bail;
- Danger of witnesses or evidence being tampered with;
- Community ties;
- Opportunity for the accused to prepare his defence;
- Whether there is any possibility of the trial being delayed;
- Prior convictions and other criminal antecedents; and
- The health, age and sex of the accused.
11.33 Thus risk assessment will help to balance the presumption of innocence, assign of the least restrictive intervention for person accused of an offence, with the need to ensure community safety while minimizing any misconduct or failure to appear on part of the accused.