HC Deb 16 March 2004 vol 419 cc154-5W
Mr. Dodds

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what representations he has received on the law regarding access to bail in Northern Ireland. [159555]

Mr. Spellar

I have been asked to reply.

During the course of the Government's public consultation on (what were then) proposals for a Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2003, several responses were received which included comments on the legislative proposals in respect of bail. In its recent report, 'The Illegal Drugs Trade and Drug Culture in Northern Ireland', the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee made recommendations in respect of the granting of bail in cases of drug trafficking and in cases where representations have been made against bail being granted. The Government have also been working closely with criminal justice agencies on the law and the operation of the bail process.

In recognising that bail is an important issue, the Government have brought forward a number of new measures including the creation of new offences of failing to surrender to bail, and a new power of arrest for breach of bail conditions in the aforementioned Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2003.

Further provisions are being created under the Justice (NI) Bill to facilitate the police in bail enforcement. These new measures will provide the prosecution with a right of appeal against the granting of bail by a magistrates court, as well as the creation of new offences of failing to surrender to bail in Scheduled cases and an increased maximum sentence for the same offences in non-scheduled cases.