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Crime Levels

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 11 December 2012

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Questions (101)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

101. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which the number of crimes committed by prisoners while on bail continues to monitored by his Department; the number of such incidence recorded in each of the past five years to date; the number of recidivistic incidents; the action taken or intended to address such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54506/12]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I share the public concern about the extent to which offences continue to be committed by persons on bail.

As the Deputy will be aware, the criminal law takes a serious view of offences committed by persons on bail. Section 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 provides that any sentence of imprisonment passed on a person for an offence committed while on bail must be consecutive on any sentence passed on him or her for a previous offence, or on the sentence last due to expire, if more than one is being served. It also provides that the fact that an offence was committed while on bail must be treated as an aggravating factor at sentencing and that the court shall impose a sentence that is greater than that which would have been imposed otherwise, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

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. The provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights also restrict the extent to which the right to bail can be limited.

Prior to the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution, bail could be refused essentially only on the grounds that a person would be likely to abscond or interfere with witnesses. The Bail Act 1997, which gave effect to the terms of the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution, provides 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.

In addition, section 6 of that Act, as amended by section 9 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007, provides that every bail recognisance is subject to the condition that the accused person shall not commit an offence while on bail.

I believe that bail law must be continually reviewed to ensure that all possible avenues are taken to protect the public against the commission of crime, particularly serious crime, by persons on bail.

Accordingly, my Department has been engaged in work to consolidate and update bail law with a view to presenting a clear, accessible and modern statement of the law. In the context of that modernisation of the law, I will be seeking to restructure the law so that it has a focus on the protection of the individual and of the public. My intention is that the new proposals will provide better guidance to the courts on how such protection might be provided. I am also taking the opportunity to introduce some general improvements to bail law to improve the overall working of the bail system.

I will bring proposals to Government on the matter in the near future.

In relation to the statistics requested by the Deputy. the Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide relevant statistics directly to the Deputy.

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