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Last Updated: Friday, 20 May, 2005, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
'Crisis' over bail offence rates
ASPS president Chief Superintendent Tom Buchan (left) talks to Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson
Tom Buchan told Cathy Jamieson about the bail system 'crisis'
The bail system is in "crisis" with thousands of people offending while on release, police chiefs have warned.

The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents has urged Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson to increase penalties for crimes committed on bail.

More than 20,000 offences in the Strathclyde force area last year included sex crimes, domestic abuse and offences against children.

Ms Jamieson said more use of electronic tags was helping tackle the problem.

Addressing a conference in Peebles, ASPS president Chief Superintendent Tom Buchan told delegates: "Our view is that a breach of bail needs to be treated with the real likelihood of imprisonment.

We do not have to look far to see a system in crisis
Ch Supt Tom Buchan

"Far too often communities and the police are bemused to see known criminals being released after breaching their bail."

The Strathclyde officer called for greater accountability and supported a recommendation made by Lord MacLean on making public the reasons why bail has or has not been granted.

Chief Superintendent Buchan added: "We are aware that where bail is flouted then there is a cost, a cost to the police, to the courts, to victims, and not least, to public confidence.

"The only winners are the bail bandits and that cannot be right.

Leniency worries

"Minister, we do not have to look far to see a system in crisis."

Mr Buchan told the justice minister that one in four cases submitted to the procurator fiscal last month by one Strathclyde Police division contained at least one bail offence.

He also raised concerns about "inappropriate leniency" in sentencing and express fears over the electronic tagging system, which he believes requires better supervision.

But Ms Jamieson told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that new measures already in force were addressing the problems.

Cathy Jamieson
Ms Jamieson insisted tagging was making a difference

She said: "I want to send a very clear message that if people breach bail they will be dealt with.

"Where we have had electronic monitoring introduced in some of the pilot schemes recently we've already seen that it can be effective.

"Where people have not kept to the conditions of bail they've been brought back before the courts and dealt with very speedily."

The minister also said that the Scottish Executive was considering the Sentencing Commission's recommendations on greater supervision for those freed pending trial and tougher measures for those who jumped bail.

Scottish National Party justice spokesman Kenny MacAskill warned that the bail system was being brought into disrepute.

He has called for a "root-and-branch" review of the system.

Scottish Tory deputy justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: "We have been warning all along that the system is in crisis and that automatic early release, a presumption in favour of bail and electronic tagging can all potentially put the public at risk."

The conference also heard calls for stiffer sentences for alcohol-related offences to reduce crimes associated with binge drinking.




SEE ALSO:
Reoffending targets under attack
03 May 05 |  Scotland
Bail review 'will renew respect'
05 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Plans to cut re-offending levels
07 Mar 05 |  Scotland
Prison population hits new high
25 Feb 05 |  Scotland


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