Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reforming bail laws

National wants to reform bail laws under urgency so that people would not be given bail if they posed any risk to the community, not just "real or substantial risk" as at present. This will increase the numbers of those remanded in prison, because it is likely that more will be denied bail. National tried to introduce the laws in the last parliament but Labour blocked it.

Remember, those denied bail are in custody before they've even found out whether they are guilty or not. What happens if their court case takes a year to come up and they are found not guilty? They are not criminals, but have been wrongfully imprisoned for a year. Punishment without trial is unjust but it is currently happening in this country before a decision on whether to grant bail has even been considered.

An application for EM bail ( electronic monitoring of defendants on pre-trial bail) takes up to 15 working days, meaning that those accused of a crime could be in custody for three weeks before they even find out if they get bail. For many, it's they first bail application. In effect, EM bail is monitored home detention without trial. Police also oppose more than 80 percent of the granted applications last year, because they are unfamiliar with the judicial processes around EM bail and so they just oppose it. And given that a role of the Police is to prove that an accused should not get bail, they are not doing a very good job proving these cases.

You'd think the risk would be lessened if they were electronically monitored while on bail. Then if they get home detention nothing much changes. If they are not convicted they don't lose their freedom. If they are imprisoned, they do their time for their crime - but after they have been found guilty. But why should they wait in custody for up to three weeks if they are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty? Unlike parole, bail is a right until someone proves in a court that a person has committed a crime and should be sentenced to imprisonment for it. It is not a privilege and a person should not be in custody awaiting to hear if he or she has got human rights in this area purely because authorities can't keep up with the paperwork. They should be out on bail until they do. If they do reoffend, make their sentences cumulative, not concurrent.

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Blogger Barnsley Bill said...

I have a good deal of sympathy for the point you are trying to make Dave, but time and time again we are seeing bailed individuals commit terrible crimes. Perhaps crimes involving violence need to be treated by degree of offending when considering bail. I know we have this now but if the judges and magistrates are issued with firm rules then the guesswork can be taken out of it and people like me will stop cursing the judiciary.

November 25, 2008 at 11:17 PM  
Blogger Swimming said...

And how many of these bailed individuals who commit crimes were electronically monitored? It's not the judges who are the problem, its the police - they don't assess risk very well.

November 25, 2008 at 11:23 PM  
Blogger Barnsley Bill said...

As you said in your post the cops oppose bail 8 times out of 10. I guess it is their job to keep the streets free of crime. Simplistic way to express it I know. But a template would fix this. If the accused fits into the bail denied half of the template then that is the way it is. There appears to be far too much subjective decision making, I would like to see this reduced.

November 25, 2008 at 11:50 PM  
Blogger Swimming said...

The "8 out of 10" times was just referring to the applications granted by the judge. It does not include the ones that the judge also did not approve. In other words the judge and the police only agreed in 20 percent of approved cases. I'm starting to wonder if police would even be able to correctly administer a basic template.

November 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you got your concurrent and cumulative around the wrong way in your last sentence.

Otherwise you make an important point very well. The scandal is the delay in getting criminal cases to trial. Offences on bail are merely a reflection of the contempt with which criminals now regard the system.
If the judges were thumping offenders who offend on bail, for the obvious contempt it shows, bail could be more readily available to those who do not offend on bail.

November 26, 2008 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Swimming said...

Yeah, correct. fixed. thx

November 26, 2008 at 9:53 AM  

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