JSC bail120707

12 July 2007

Failure to Surrender to Bail

We were pleased to receive this consultation guideline so soon after assuming responsibility for scrutiny in this area.

We note the importance of guidance on Bail Act offences: they are prevalent, and can cause considerable inconvenience, disruption, delay, and cost.

The Council’s general approach usefully emphasises the necessity to establish the harm caused and culpability involved in the wide range of circumstances that may apply.  It  is supported by the Sentencing Advisory Panel’s Advice and  is broadly endorsed by the submissions we have received from practitioners.

The review of the 2002 Practice Direction is helpful, given the differing interpretations that may have led to some inconsistency of application.  This should now be clearer.

There are three specific matters we would like to draw to your attention, in the light of our own consultation exercise.  The first is that we consider there is some confusion about the inclusion of “caring responsibilities” as a mitigating factor; this appears to stray into the territory of personal mitigation.  It is likely to come out in court in any case, so we suggest that the Council either clarifies this point by giving some practical examples, or reviews its position in the definitive guideline.

The second point is that our consultees welcomed the inclusion of community orders, but it was suggested that if such an order is thought appropriate, it might take the form of a stand alone curfew with a tag: we are inclined to agree that this might be the most cost-effective approach.

 Thirdly, it might be helpful to specify the levels of fines in the definitive guideline.

The Committee would like to place on record its interest in the growing number of schemes - including tagging - to assist compliance with bail.  We trust that these will be a constructive factor in reducing the remand population over time.

We have fully considered the various documents in this matter. This letter constitutes our response to the consultation guideline.

Yours sincerely

Rt Hon Alan Beith MP
Chairman, Constitutional Affairs Committee