Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Old Bailee

Deciding on bail is one of the most important tasks performed by magistrates, and while we have the Bail Act to guide us, there is a considerable degree of judgment required. When someone comes before us in custody from the police station the Prosecutor will make representations before the Defence make their bail application. These days there are a few Prosecutors who are on something of a mission, and who vigorously oppose bail in almost every case. This means that we have to look carefully at the objections before we reach our decision. The other day a man was brought in, and the Crown opposed bail because he was already on (bail) remand awaiting committal to the Crown Court for six high-value thefts, and had just been charged with a seventh. The Crown submitted that this raised the fear that he would commit further offences, so please would we lock him up. I questioned the Prosecutor closely about the seven offences, and it turned out that the seventh theft was carried out at the same time as the first six, but the police had only just got together enough evidence to charge him with it. So the offences were all of a piece, the objection was not made out, and we re-bailed him on the same conditions as before. The CPS need to do a bit better than this. Prosecutors have a duty as officers of the court to assist proceedings and they must try to avoid a knee-jerk policy of always opposing bail.

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