Tuesday, September 09, 2008

In the UK, Sparks Fly Over Bail

More than one-in-three crimes in the North-east are being committed by bail bandits, the Evening Express can reveal today.

Latest figures show that 3,498 crimes were dealt with by the courts in 2006/7.

And out of those a staggering 1,261 involved people who were on bail.

At Aberdeen Sheriff Court, bail bandits accounted for 14 out of the 66 serious assaults, and nearly half of all robberies – 20 out of 43.

Recent offenders include Debbie Buchan, who was involved in the horrific killing of Laura Milne in Aberdeen back in December last year.

Buchan viciously attacked her helpless victim before 22-year-old Stuart Jack slit her throat.

Buchan admitted attempting to murder Laura by punching and kicking her on her head and body, forcing her to the floor, and repeatedly stamping on her.

Just two months earlier, the 19-year-old had been found guilty of holding a blade to a man’s throat – but was freed while she awaited sentencing.

Today Laura’s father Brian called for a tightening up of the bail system, which can allow violent offenders to be left free in the community while awaiting trial or sentencing, or while they appeal a conviction.

He said: “People shouldn’t be let out if they’ve held a knife against somebody’s throat.

“They keep saying they’re trying to stop this knife crime, but this is not helping anybody.

“The bit I can’t get my head round is that she was let out like it was a minor crime.”

In 2003 two men went on to kill in Aberdeen while out on bail.

Mark Lindsay was convicted of stabbing 51-year-old Michael McGuire in Mastrick.

He had been released pending an appeal after being jailed for four years for crimes including assault.

And Lawrence Davidson was convicted of bludgeoning to death Aberdeen grandad Stanley Tawse after luring him to his Rose Street flat.

Davidson was out on bail after being accused of attacking an 82-year-old pensioner who later died.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that of 3,130 crimes dealt with by Aberdeen Sheriff Court in 2006/7, 939 involved people who had been on bail at the time.

This included more than half of shoplifters (300 out of 580), one in three house-breakers (69 out of 206) and one-in-three thieves who targeted vehicles (58 out of 168).

And one-in-five crimes of handling an offensive weapon (26 out of 130) were down to bail bandits.

In rural areas it was a similar pattern.

In 2006/7, bail bandits were responsible for 37 out 208 crimes dealt with in Banff, 166 out of 815 in Elgin, 113 out of 496 in Peterhead, and six out of 110 in Stonehaven.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Legislation to tighten the law was brought into force in December, including increased maximum sentences for breaching bail conditions.

“An accused who breaches their bail now has no excuse – the effect of their bail conditions will have been explained to them when granted bail, including the penalties available if they breach their conditions.

“Tough enforcement action, including increased maximum sentences for bail breach, will send a clear message that bail breaches will not be tolerated.

“We want to see greater consistency and rigour in the overall use of bail and believe that the new measures – which are part of wide-ranging reforms to our criminal courts – can help achieve this.

“If a court thinks an accused should be remanded because, for example, they have a poor record of breaching bail, then the court should remand them to protect the public.

“And the courts have indeed been remanding more people than before.”

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