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Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009

Doing time for no crime

A burglar breaking into a house
More or Less
Friday, 18 December 2009
BBC Radio 4, 1330 GMT

Every year in England and Wales 12,000 people are remanded in prison who are later found not guilty of the charges against them.

They spend on average 55 days locked up and receive no compensation when released.

Professor Sheila Bird has been exploring the numbers in the hope statistics could be used to make the system fairer.

Child drinkers

A boy drinking lager
Are middle class parents "mass medicating" their children?

We look at chief medical officer for England Sir Liam Donaldson's suggestion that the "middle class obsession" with the idea that "watering down some wine will prime their child to being a sensible drinker in later life" is contradicted by the evidence.


Presents under a Christmas tree
Festive presents under the tree are all very well, but how much would you pay for the gifts you receive?

How much are the Christmas presents you buy worth to the people who receive them?

According to economist Joel Waldfogel, the answer is less than you paid for them. Christmas is, he says, "an orgy of value destruction".

Tim takes the reluctant Professor Waldfogel Christmas shopping.

Vole patrol

A water vole
Water vole numbers were said to have doubled, but annual reports may not be strictly comparable.

Did the number of water voles double this year, as the media reported?

One More or Less listener thinks he's spotted the real reason the numbers changed.

Small mammal enthusiasts be warned: it might not have been such a great year for the water vole, after all.

Who pays for the public sector?

Tracey Emin and Michael Caine
Tracey Emin and Michael Caine have both complained about the new higher tax rate.

Out of the £148 billion of income tax sitting in the Treasury, what percentage is paid by people whose incomes put them in the top one per cent of earners?

More or Less alumnus Michael Blastland explains who's really paying their way.

And don't forget our end of year quiz


The views expressed on these pages are not necessarily the views of the BBC. The comments published will reflect the balance of views we receive.

Doing time for no crime

There are two fallacies in the article on "time with no crime". The first is that if you are found "not guilty" you are "found innocent". Not so; simply the proof beyond reasonable doubt was not there. Second, that if you don't get a custodial sentence, you didn't deserve one. The Judge when sentencing will take into account time spent on remand and may impose a "time served" sentence or a community based sentence because there has already been time in prison. That time has an impact regardless of whether it is served before or after a finding of guilt.
Kate Rowlands

What price will you put on the victims of crimes committed by those on bail? Protection of the innocent and prompt justice for the accused - these should be the watchwords.
Andrew Smith

Like all magistrates I am fully aware that a defendant is innocent at the time we have to decide whether or not to remand in custody rather than release on bail and so is the law. The decision to remand in custody is therefore not taken lightly and the bar is set very high as it should be. Every defendant has the right to bail and most are granted it without any conditions. Before we decide to remand in custody we have to be persuaded by the prosecution that the defendant offers a "substantial risk" that he will not surrender to bail, will commit further offences whilst on bail or will attempt to interfere with witnesses.
John Waghorne

I worked in a remand home for young people in West London for several years. It was certainly the case that many youngsters were eventually found not guilty, but it was very much our experience from talking to the youngsters that they were by no means innocent, and freely spoke to us about their criminal activities and the way their solicitors had got them off on various technicalities. I merely wish to make the point that statistics at first sight do not always tell the whole story, whether they come from government or not.
Tony Hammick

Child drinkers

Thank you for the item on child drinking data. I was highly sceptical when these observations appeared on the news and it was helpful that you guys dug into it more deeply.

Who pays for the public sector?

The item about how much the top 1% of households contribute to taxation was misleading - if the message was that higher paid individuals - such as those presenting and producing the programme perhaps? - pay their fair share or more in tax. The implication was that the little people should jolly well shut up and pay up because they are being let off lightly compared to these uber-magnanimous superior beings. I'd like to know what percentage of their total income the top 1% and 10% pay in income tax and retain after income tax (if of course they declare their full income and don't have it paid off-shore). And is it really fair that 55% of all tax relief goes to higher-rate tax payers?
J. Pearce

BBC Radio 4's More or Less is broadcast on Friday, 18 December at 1330 GMT and repeated on Sunday, 20 December at 2000 GMT.

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Lax parents 'fuel binge drinking'
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