A public consultation has been launched into the use of bail and remand in Scottish courts.
Lord MacLean launched the consultation
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.
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.
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
About one in 10 people bailed in 2002 had been charged with a crime involving violence, including homicide, serious assault, sexual assault and
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
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.