For those unwilling to go down the full-on Random Hits
route, I've been thinking about possible ways to make bounty-hunting a bit more involving and (hopefully) interesting, without making too many changes to core gameplay.
Basically, the only difference would be when the player scoops an escape pod carrying a pirate. When docking, instead of immediately giving the rescued criminal up to GalCop, the game would generate a system where the pirate is Most Wanted. The player would then have the option to take the criminal that system for a large payout, or decline. If declined, the pirate would be turned over to the local cops as usual; but if the player accepted, the pirate would then become a sort of passenger mission, although without a time limit. On arrival at the destination system station, player gets a substantially bigger bounty - probably in the Cr1000–2000 range.
This could also involve an extra piece of equipment. The simple version would just be a the need to purchase (and keep renewed) a Bounty Hunting licence. If you have a valid licence then you get the option to keep wanted pirates onboard as 1-tonne special "cargo" items. A slightly more complex version might be to have a Holding Cell/Ship's Brig as a purchasable piece of equipment (instead of? along with? the licence), which would take up space as per a passenger cabin but which could hold 4 (?) pirates for the space of one passenger.
Further refinements might involve generating a few random "revenge" attacks - one-off muggings by a pirate band who would announce their reason for attacking the player. Not for every pirate delivered, but occasionally: small injections of consequences would help give the game a fuller experience, I think.
This is nowhere near the complexity of Random Hits, with target ships to hunt, seedy space-bars, etc., but it might make bounty-hunting more interesting for those who see it as an occasional sideline and not a full-on career …