Monday, 9 November 2015

Arrested and refused to give names. Daily Mail complains that they got unconditional bail.

The Daily Mail (7th November) carried an article about three "rioters" who were arrested and who refused to give their names to the Police.  According to the article, they had their fingerprints, DNA and photographs taken and spent  48 hours in custody.  They finally got to the Magistrates' Court only for the Bench to let them go on unconditional bail.   Read the article.  Let us take a look at the relevant law.

A basic principle of English law is that a person is to be considered innocent until proven guilty.  This "Golden Thread" applies no matter what the charge and it is for the prosecution to prove guilt. 

The three "rioters" were charged with failing to give a name and address when required to do so - Police Reform Act 2002 section 50.  It is triable only in the Magistrates' Court and carries a maximum penalty of a fine of £1000 (Level 3).  The offence is a NON-imprisonable summary offence. This has implications regarding entitlement to bail.

An accused is entitled BY LAW to unconditional bail unless a reason permitted by the Bail Act 1976 (as amended) exists to either (a) refuse bail or (b) apply conditional bail. 

Refusal of bail for non-imprisonable summary offence:

The grounds on which bail may be refused are set out in Schedule 1 to the Bail Act and they vary with the nature of the offence. The grounds for refusing bail for a NON-imprisonable summary offence  are in Part II of Schedule I and the grounds are limited because the offence itself is non-imprisonable.  However, a court could remand a defendant into custody in the event of failure to surrender to bail or for his own protection or where he is already a serving prisoner or, in some situations, following an arrest under section 7 of the Bail Act.   

Could conditional bail have been applied?  

Conditions may be stipulated if the court is of the opinion that they are NECESSARY to ensure one or more of the following

  • that the defendant surrenders to custody; 
  • does not commit an offence while on bail; 
  • does not interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice; 
  •  makes himself available for inquiries or reports to be made to assist the court with sentencing
  • or attends an interview with a legal representative.

These defendants may well have have a laugh at British justice and they might not appear for trial next year.  If they don't appear then they may be arrested and could be remanded into custody at that time.

Why a trial for such a simple offence needs to be months away I have no idea.  There certainly was a time when simple offences were before the local Magistrates within days - sometimes the next day.  At a time when the workload of the Magistrates' Court has generally fallen such delay needs to be explained and delay continues despite a number of initiatives over recent years to try to speed things up - (see this previous post - remember CJSSS etc).

A good explanation of the complexities of bail including the grounds for refusal may be read HERE.

It is high time that the heavily amended Bail Act was replaced with an up-to-date Act so that the law is more accessible to both practitioners and the general public.

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