Friday, August 03, 2007

Bail or No Bail

The actor Chris Langham, who was yesterday convicted of offences involving child pornography, has been remanded in custody while pre-sentence reports are prepared. He will be sentenced next month. The judge said:
“In my judgment, and I’ve thought long and hard about this, it would be a misplaced kindness to give you bail at this stage.”
I know exactly what he meant. It is often more humane to send someone to start serving their sentence straight away than it is to leave them on bail for a few weeks knowing what will happen later. We are sometimes asked for bail pending appeal, and lawyers can be relied upon to stress that if the appeal succeeds their client will have been unfairly treated. The senior judge at the Crown Court to which we commit has asked us not to grant bail pending appeal because that puts a bit of pressure on the judges who don't want to see a cat-and-mouse situation. I did raise my eyebrows last month though, when we hardened our hearts and refused bail to someone we had just sent to prison, quoting the Resident Judge's advice, only for that selfsame judge to bail him a few days later.
Sometimes, too, there is rough justice in an offender serving a week or two inside, giving him a taste of prison life, but without leaving him there for long enough to start adapting to it.
If Langham gets a suspended sentence (possible, especially combined with compulsory treatment) this would apply to him. I have just looked up the latest guidelines and while I didn't hear the evidence, they seem to suggest about 12 months as a tariff, so it could go either way for him.
The guideline is here at page 116.

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