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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 February 2008, 20:50 GMT
Row over murder suspects on bail
Gary Weddell
Gary Weddell was awaiting trial for his wife's murder
A Ministry of Justice survey has found that 60 of 455 defendants charged with murder were released on bail.

The figure was disclosed in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

It follows the outcry over ex-policeman Gary Weddell, a suspected murderer who allegedly killed again while on bail.

The Conservatives are calling for tougher bail guidelines, but the government says these decisions must rest with the courts.

Only six out of 41 people charged with manslaughter were held in custody, the snapshot survey also showed.

The figures revealed the position, according to the Crown Court Electronic Records System, on 31 January.

'Disturbing truth'

The issue was highlighted last year, when former police inspector Mr Weddell is believed to have shot his mother-in-law - before killing himself - while on bail charged with murdering his wife.

Shadow Justice Secretary Nick Herbert said tougher bail laws were needed to "ensure that public safety comes first".

"After Gary Weddell murdered his mother-in-law while out on bail, the government claimed that it was unusual for bail to be granted to murder suspects," he said.

"Now we discover the disturbing truth that a large number of people charged with murder were in fact free on bail at that time."

A Ministry of Justice said it was up to the courts to consider each case separately.

He said bail was typically subject to "rigorous" conditions, such as curfews, and added that not all of the suspects would necessarily have ended up facing trial for murder or manslaughter.

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