Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill

Memorandum submitted by Roger Smith, Director of Justice (LA 61)

Dear Mr Hollobone,

Re: Evidence Session on 14 July 2011 to the Public Bill Committee in respect of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill 2011

I write further to the evidence I gave to the Public Bill Committee in respect of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill on 14 July 2011.

During the evidence session (at col 124), Helen Goodman MP asked about JUSTICE’s concerns in respect of the adult bail provisions and I said I would write to the Committee in respect of this. I therefore here set out JUSTICE’s views on the Bill’s bail proposals. In our written evidence to the Committee we said, at para 19:

We welcome the removal of likelihood of failure to surrender to custody as a criterion for refusing bail in cases where there is no real prospect of a custodial sentence (clause 73 and Schedule 10). However, in the small number of cases where there is no real prospect of a custodial sentence but there is serious risk, that cannot be dealt with by conditional bail, that a defendant will commit serious violent or sexual offences while on bail or interfere with witnesses, we believe that a remand in custody should continue to be available.

We therefore believe that the exceptions proposed in the Bill intended to apply to offences of domestic violence should be extended to allow a remand in custody in any case where there is no real prospect of a custodial sentence but there is a serious risk – that cannot be dealt with by bail conditions – that the defendant will commit serious violent or sexual offences and/or interfere with witnesses whilst on bail. We anticipate that the number of cases in which this would be necessary would be small, but believe that it is important that a residual discretion remains to allow justice to be done (by protecting victims and witnesses) and to protect the public. If it is believed that custodial remands are currently being overused on the grounds of likelihood of committing offences on bail/interfering with witnesses in cases where there is no real prospect of a custodial sentence, we believe that the better solution is to tighten the criteria for a remand to custody rather than to ban it in certain categories of case.

September 2011

Prepared 7th September 2011