Thursday, July 13, 2006

They Do things Differently In America (3)

The Natwest/Enron Three are in the air as I write, on their way to the USA to face an uncertain future.

The first difference from the British system that they are likely to encounter on arrival in the USA will be the American habit of chaining prisoners hand and foot. This is largely a symbolic humiliation in their case, as it is in many cases, because having reported to Gatwick and got on the plane they are hardly likely to attack their guards and escape.

Bail will be their first hurdle, and here there is a fundamental difference between the two systems. I understand that hard cash or a bail bond will be required if the judge decides to grant them bail.

I have just run through their case in my mind, as if they were in front of me applying for bail having been charged in the UK. The Bail Act provides for a presumption in favour of bail, unless there are 'substantial' grounds to fear that they will fail to appear at court, commit further offences, or interefere with witnesses.

In the circumstances, of an alleged seven-figure fraud likely to result in a prison sentence, I think that the first objection is the only one likely to have any strength in it. That fear could be addressed by imposing bail conditions. To reside at a specified address, certainly. To surrender their passports. And possibly a surety, that is a promise from a third party to pay a set sum if they breach their bail. In this case, perhaps between £100,000 and £250,000 each.

Let's see how they get on.

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