HL Deb 23 June 2003 vol 650 cc2-3WA
Lord Hylton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What measures they are taking to reduce the numbers of prisoners held on remand pending trial, in particular those not charged with violent crimes. [HL2843]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

The issue of bail is for the courts to decide following clearly set out procedures. The statutory structure is provided primarily by the Bail Act 1976 which creates a presumption to bail for all defendants involved in criminal proceedings. The Government believe that bail should be withheld in all appropriate cases, but are equally concerned that no one is remanded in custody unless the circumstances demand it.

The Criminal Justice Bill creates a presumption that an adult defendant who is charged with an imprisonable offence will not be granted bail in certain circumstances. These are:

  1. i. where he has failed without reasonable excuse to surrender to custody in answer to bail for that offence, or
  2. ii. where the offence appears to have been committed while the defendant was already on bail, or
  3. iii. where (having tested for a specified class A drug) he refuses to undergo an assessment as to his dependency or propensity to misuse such drugs, or, following an assessment, refused any relevant follow-up action recommended, or
  4. iv. unless the court is satisfied that there is no significant risk that if released he would fail to surrender, or (as the case may be) commit an offence. The Government consider that any increase in remands in custody as a result of these provisions will be justified in order to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system and to protect the public.

For young offenders we are working at reducing the number of unnecessary secure remands. We have introduced bail supervision and support schemes, made the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme for juveniles on bail and brought in electronic tagging of 12 to 16 year-olds who may be granted court bail or remanded to local authority accommodation.