Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Bail - It Doesn't Get Any Easier

I have frequently blogged about the sometimes finely-balanced decision whether to grant bail to an offender or to remand him in custody. In the last year the law on bail for imprisonable but summary-only offences has changed; there is a useful article here. We encountered a tricky one just before Christmas.
Brief facts:- Estranged husband lives in the same area as his wife and children. He has a drink problem and has behaved badly in the past while drunk. He has admitted two charges of criminal damage to his wife's home, amounting to a few hundred pounds' worth. He pleads guilty and we adjourn for reports with a view to a community penalty, asking Probation to look at the drink issue and possible treatment, as well as punishment and compensation. Because the case has a domestic violence background to it (although there is no suggestion that he has ever attacked his wife) Probation need a full three weeks to do the reports.
The Prosecutor vigorously opposes bail, relying on the

fear of the commission of further offences which are likely to cause another person to suffer or fear physical or mental injury. This will be particularly relevant to cases of domestic common assault
But this isn't common assault, it's low-level criminal damage for which a prison sentence is highly unlikely. On the other hand, he may get up to no good if or when he next gets drunk, so perhaps his wife will 'fear' injury at his hands. So do we bail him, with or without conditions to keep him away from his wife, or do we lock him up for three weeks while reports are prepared, which will keep him away from her but will leave him in the same position when he comes out in three weeks' time?
What would you do? For what it's worth, I don't think there is necessarily a 'right' or a 'wrong' answer.

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