Written Answers. - Bail Act.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

572 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has any proposals to amend the Bail Act, 1997, so that persons charged with offences, who have a list of previous convictions, are not granted bail on low personal securities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8269/01]

The Bail Act, 1997 was passed into law by the Oireachtas in May 1997. In addition to tightening up the bail regime generally, the Act gave effect to the terms of the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution which provided for the refusal of bail to a person charged with a serious offence where it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person.

Section 2(1) of the Act provides that where an application for bail is made by a person charged with a serious offence, a court may refuse the application if it is satisfied that such refusal is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person. For this purpose a serious offence is defined as one which carries a penalty of at least five years imprisonment on conviction and which is listed in the Schedule to the Bill (e.g. murder, manslaughter, sexual offences, drugs offences). This Schedule has since been amended by the inclusioninter alia of certain offences under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997.

I would point out to the Deputy that Section 2(2) of the Bail Act provides that in deciding whether or not to refuse bail in accordance with section 2(1), a court shall take into account a number of factors, including any previous convictions of the accused person.

The Deputy will appreciate that the granting of bail in accordance with the Act and the amount of bail are matters for the courts who are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and it would therefore be inappropriate for me, as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to comment on the exercise of these functions by the courts.

I would however point out that in the case ofThe People v. O'Callaghan [1966] I.R. 501, it was stated in the Supreme Court that bail must not be fixed at a figure so large as would in effect amount to a denial of bail.