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Last Updated: Monday, 28 June, 2004, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Bail focus for sentencing body
Lord MacLean
Lord MacLean launched the consultation
A public consultation has been launched into the use of bail and remand in Scottish courts.

The Sentencing Commission is examining various aspects of Scotland's criminal justice system.

These include the effectiveness of sentences on reoffending rates, consistency in sentencing and arrangements for early release.

The Scottish Executive has asked it to prioritise the use of bail and remand along with automatic early release.

Intimidate witnesses

The commission was established in November 2003.

Its chairman, Lord MacLean, said: "People must not be deprived of their liberty without good reason before they are found guilty of an offence.

"On the other hand, it is necessary to protect the public from accused persons who there is good reason to believe may commit further offences or attempt to intimidate witnesses while on bail.

"It is also necessary in the interests of the administration of justice to remand in custody those who there is good reason to suppose may abscond or simply fail or refuse to appear at court."

The consultation document cites "apparent general concern" about various issues, including the number and the gravity of offences being committed by those granted bail.

Another concern is the time that those accused of serious charges remain on bail awaiting trial.

It also refers to the incidence of those on bail threatening witnesses directly and indirectly and the fact that some accused persons are not being prosecuted and punished for offences committed while on bail or for breach of bail conditions.

Remand population

The most recent statistics suggest that about 32,000 accused are bailed in Scotland each year - compared to an annual average of 24,000 between 1995 and 1999.

About one in 10 people bailed in 2002 had been charged with a crime involving violence, including homicide, serious assault, sexual assault and robbery.

As well as an increase in orders for bail, the average daily remand population - untried prisoners and prisoners awaiting sentence - has also increased by about one third in the last three decades.

In 2002, more than 19% of the average daily prison population comprised prisoners detained on remand.

It has been estimated that about half of those remanded go on to be convicted and receive a custodial sentence.

The commission is seeking responses to its consultation by the end of September and hopes to make its recommendations on bail and remand by the end of the year.

Members of the review body include the former Lord Advocate Rt Hon The Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, Sheriff Rita Rae QC and Dumfries and Galloway Chief Constable David Strang.

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