Bail

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 2:35 pm on 29th November 1993.

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Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink , Castle Point 2:35 pm, 29th November 1993

To ask the Attorney-General what criteria are used by the Crown Prosecution Service when deciding whether to object to bail.

Photo of Mr Derek Spencer Mr Derek Spencer , Brighton, Pavilion

The Crown Prosecution Service takes into account the considerations and exceptions to bail set out in the Bail Act 1976 and any other relevant information available to it, including material from the police, the probation service, and other sources.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink , Castle Point

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that answer. Does he share with the House the feeling that the interests and concerns of victims should take priority over those of the perpetrators of crime? Can he assure the House that in making decisions about bail he will take full account of the interests of victims?

Photo of Mr Derek Spencer Mr Derek Spencer , Brighton, Pavilion

I can reassure my hon. Friend. The Crown Prosecution Service already gives very high priority to the interests of victims. At present, the police inform the CPS if there is a risk that the victim will suffer further offences or be intimidated by the defendant. If so, the CPS objects to bail on the grounds set out in the Bail Act 1976. We intend to go further, however. On 9 November, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary announced proposals under which the police and CPS will, as a matter of course, gather information from the victim concerning his or her view on the granting of bail, and the information will be put before the court as a matter of regularity. That is a step forward.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

Why does the Minister not have the guts to tell the House and the country that decisions about bail depend partly on the strand of society from which a person comes? Those double standards apply right into court, as was the case with Roger Levitt, who not only benefited from the provisions of the Bail Act but got off with a few hours of community service following a £20 million fraud while poll tax defaulters are chucked into gaol for six months on principle. The Government are riddled with double standards.

Photo of Mr Derek Spencer Mr Derek Spencer , Brighton, Pavilion

The question whether Mr. Levitt should be granted bail was exclusively a matter for the court, and the question of what sentence should be imposed was a matter exclusively for Mr. Justice Laws, who passed sentence. Those were not matters for the Serious Fraud Office, and not matters for the prosecution at all. The hon. Gentleman should be aware that the charge on which Mr. Levitt was tried was a single charge. The Crown wanted him to be tried on a number of charges and argued strongly for the inclusion in the indictment of a number of charges. After the indictment had been reduced to a single charge, the Crown argued strongly for the inclusion in the trial of a wide range of evidence, but the judge ruled against the Crown on that.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Dickens Mr Geoffrey Dickens , Littleborough and Saddleworth

Does my hon. and learned Friend accept that often when offenders are given bail, rehabilitation or parole—or any of the other measures which release them into the atmosphere, as it were—they offend or abscond time and again? If there is a shadow or a grain of doubt, should not such people be kept under lock and key where they cannot burgle our homes or break into our motor vehicles?

Photo of Mr Derek Spencer Mr Derek Spencer , Brighton, Pavilion

My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that we are abreast of his thinking. The Bail (Amendment) Act 1993, which will come into operation in January, gives the prosecution a right to appeal to the Crown court against the granting of bail in most important cases in the magistrates court. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has recently announced further proposals under which alleged offenders who reoffend on bail will not have the benefit of the presumption of bail. He also proposes that persons charged with murder, manslaughter or rape who have already been convicted of one of those offences will be refused bail. This House and the other place will have an opportunity to decide their attitude to those proposals quite soon.