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Bail: Crimes of Violence

Volume 494: debated on Thursday 18 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many and what proportion of offenders released on bail in 2007 were (a) originally charged with and (b) subsequently sentenced for (i) offences of violence against the person and (ii) sexual offences; (279226)

(2) how many and what proportion of (a) defendants released on bail and (b) defendants charged with violence against the person or sexual offences and then released on bail (i) failed to attend sentencing hearings and (ii) broke their bail conditions in other ways in 2007.

The annual publication ‘Criminal Statistics’ contains estimates of the number of defendants in certain offence groups who were bailed by the courts. The estimated number of defendants who were granted bail at magistrates courts in England and Wales during 2007 in connection with ‘Violence against the Person’ and ‘Sexual offences’ was 43,200 and 4,800 respectively, corresponding to 9 and 1 per cent. of the total number of persons who were bailed at magistrates courts for all offences (Criminal Statistics, England and Wales, table 4.10). These figures include those also held in custody for some but not the whole period of the proceedings. The number of offenders subsequently sentenced for these offence types are not available.

The estimated number of defendants who were granted bail at all magistrates courts and who subsequently failed to appear as directed to any hearing, not just a sentencing hearing, in England and Wales during 2007 was 3,400 for ‘Violence against the person’ (8 per cent. of the number of persons bailed for this offence type). For ‘Sexual offences’ the figure was 300 (6 per cent. of the number of persons bailed for this offence type). For all offences, the figure was 51,500 (11 per cent. of persons bailed) (Criminal Statistics, England and Wales, table 4.10). These figures include those also held in custody for some but not the whole period of the proceedings. These remands data are not comparable with other court proceedings data.

The Ministry of Justice holds no data on how many defendants breached their bail conditions. Breach of bail conditions is not an offence and therefore carries no penalty. Any person who breaches a bail condition is liable to immediate arrest and it is the responsibility of the court to re-consider bail as a whole and decide whether to grant bail again on the same or different conditions or to remand into custody.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many defendants were charged with offences of violence against the person or sexual offences in 2007; how many and what proportion of those so charged were (a) granted and (b) refused bail; and what condition of schedule 1 of the Bail Act 1976 was cited as the reason not to grant bail in each case; (279230)

(2) how many offenders were (a) prosecuted for and (b) convicted of (i) offences of violence against the person and (ii) sexual offences in 2007.

The number of defendants who were proceeded against at magistrates courts and found guilty at all courts for ‘violence against the person’ and ‘sexual offences’, England and Wales, for the year 2007 (latest available) can be viewed in the table.

Charging data are not held by the Ministry of Justice, so proceeded against data have been provided in lieu.

These data are on the principal offence basis. The figures given in the table on court proceedings relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offence for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences, the offence selected is the one for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe.

Court proceedings data for 2008 will be available in the autumn of 2009.

The annual publication “Criminal Statistics” contains estimates of the number of defendants in certain offence groups who were bailed by the courts. The estimated number of defendants who were granted bail at all magistrates courts in England and Wales during 2007 in connection with offences in the “Violence against the person and Sexual offences” groups was 43,200 and 4,800 respectively (Criminal Statistics, England and Wales, table 4.10). These figures include those also held in custody for some but not the whole period of the proceedings. Data for 2008 will be available later this year.

These data are not comparable with the court proceedings data presented elsewhere in this answer, therefore they cannot be used to compute the proportions of defendants granted or refused bail.

The court may withhold bail if it is satisfied that there are substantial grounds for believing that, if released on bail, the defendant would abscond, commit an offence, interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice. In making its decision the court must consider all the circumstances of the case as appear to be relevant. This will include the nature and seriousness of the alleged offence and the weight of the evidence against the defendant, the defendant’s character, antecedents, associations, community ties and past record of complying with bail, as well as any other factors which appear relevant to the court. Data on bail collected centrally by my Department do not include information on the reasons given for refusing bail. This information would have to be retrieved by inspecting individual court records which could be achieved only at disproportionate cost.

Number of defendants who were proceeded against at magistrates courts and found guilty at all courts for sexual and violence against the person offences In England and Wales, 20071,2,3

Proceeded against

Found guilty

Sexual offences4,5

Violence against the person6

Sexual offences4,5

Violence against the person6

2007

8,634

61,056

5,075

41,951

1 The figures given in the table on court proceedings relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offences for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences it is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe.

2 Sexual and violence against the person offences include ‘indictable only’ and ‘triable-either way offences’. ‘Indictable only’ are the most serious breaches of the criminal law and must be dealt with at the Crown Court. Triable-either-way offences may be tried at either the Crown Court or at magistrates courts. The offence groups do not include summary offences.

3 Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts, and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.

4 The sexual offences category includes offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which came into force on 1 May 2004. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 represented a major overhaul of the law and so comparisons with old offending regimes can be misleading.

5 The sexual offences category includes the following offences:

Buggery

Sexual assault on a male

Indecency between males

Rape of a female

Rape of a male

Sexual assault on a female

Sexual activity with child under 13

Sexual activity with child under 16

Familial sexual offences (incest)

Exploitation of prostitution

Abduction

Bigamy

Soliciting of women by men

Sexual activity etc. with a person with a mental disorder

Abuse of children through prostitution and pornography

Trafficking for sexual exploitation

Abuse of trust—sexual offences

Gross indecency with children

Miscellaneous sexual offences

6 The Violence against the person category includes the following offence classes:

Murder

Attempted murder

Threat or conspiracy to murder

Manslaughter

Infanticide

Child destruction

Causing death by dangerous driving

Manslaughter due to diminished responsibility

Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs

Causing death of a child or vulnerable person

Wounding or other act endangering life

Endangering railway passenger

Endangering life at sea

Malicious wounding etc.

Cruelty to or neglect of children

Abandoning child aged under two years

Child abduction

Procuring illegal abortion

Concealment of birth

Causing death by aggravated vehicle taking

Source:

OCJR—E and A: Office for criminal justice reform—evidence and analysis unit, Ministry of Justice