Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Question 68: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the degree, if any, to which he or his Department have monitored the extent to which the bail system is abused by the criminal elements; if his attention has been drawn to the number of serious crimes committed by persons while on bail, in some cases a multiplicity of crimes; if statistics have been maintained which may suggest the need for a change in the bail laws with a view to ensuring that bail is not made available in cases when there is serious possibility of recidivism; when such legislative changes may be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28476/10]
The number of offences being committed by persons on bail is a matter of concern. The operation of the legislation relating to bail is kept under continuing review by my Department, and proposals for amendment of the legislation are brought forward when that is considered necessary. A decision to grant bail in a particular case is a matter for the court, which is, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of its judicial functions. There is a constitutional presumption in favour of bail, since, in the eyes of the law, a person is innocent until proven guilty.
Statistics compiled by the Central Statistics Office indicate that in 2009 there were 27,228 offences recorded where the suspected offender was on bail, which represents a reduction of 8% on the figure for the previous year.
Towards the end of last year, I obtained Government approval to commence work on a new Bail Bill. The Bill will restate and consolidate bail law. In addition, a number of matters to improve the operation of the law are being examined. These include: (a) providing that the courts must have regard to the nature and seriousness of any danger to any person or the public posed by the release of the accused person on bail; (b) creating presumptions that bail should be refused for people charged with certain types of serious crime. In view of restrictions resulting from the European Convention on Human Rights, such presumptions would act as a form of guidance to the courts in identifying those who present unacceptable risks of committing serious offences if granted bail; and (c) extending the powers of the courts to refuse bail where that is necessary to prevent the commission of further offences to include more minor offences which fall below the current level of seriousness required by the Bail Act 1997.
I hope to be in a position to bring proposals to Government later this year.