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Bail Figures "Appalling": ACT MP

ACT Justice Spokesman Patricia Schnauer is raising questions about whether criminals who commit crimes while on bail are actually being punished for those crimes.

Patricia Schnauer today said she is concerned that criminals who are sentenced for crimes committed while on bail may be serving those sentences concurrently with others.

"I believe that many criminals are getting nothing more than 'paper sentences' for the crimes they commit while on bail. I have asked the Ministry of Justice to tell me if this is the case and I am astounded to find that the Ministry 'does not know whether the sentences were served concurrently'.

"If criminals are serving sentences for crimes committed while on bail concurrently, the sentences are meaningless. They are getting away scott free. They would not even serve one day more for the crimes they commit while on bail. It's appalling.

Patricia Schnauer also today released figures showing the top 11 recipients of bail from1993 to 1996.

"Over the four year period, 870 offences were committed by these 11 criminals while they were out in the community on bail. These 11 people were bailed 213 times. Every time the top 11 recipients of bail were released, on average they committed four offences.

"The whole point of granting bail is the presumption that the accused is innocent until their trial. These figures show that in many cases the reverse is true.

"I am appalled that one person can be granted bail 23 times, go out and commit 85 crimes while on bail, including threatening to kill or causing grievous bodily harm, and could end up receiving a four month 'paper' jail sentence.

"Worse still because that four month jail sentence relates to a crime committed while on bail, it could be served concurrently or at the same time as the main sentence for which the offender received bail. In reality the offender would then have received no punishment for threatening to kill someone or for any other offence committed while on bail. This makes a mockery of the legal system," said Ms Schnauer.

"If people commit further crimes while on bail, the sentences for those crimes should never be served concurrently. There should be an additional period spent in jail as punishment for those crimes committed while on bail. The Ministry of Justice should be keeping this information.

"Recently, Neil Billington, a senior judicial communications advisor, said there has never been a policy "if you do the crime you do the time."

Mr Billington said "this is because sentences are not and never have been imposed by Parliament, but by the courts which take into account a whole range of factors when sentencing offenders."

"Mr Billington said that any term of imprisonment had to be as short as was "consonant with promoting the safety of the community."

"If someone is granted bail 17 times, commits 111 offences while on bail and receives a maximum sentence of six months which is served at the same time as he serves his sentence for the main offence, that is no punishment at all. It certainly is not "consonant with promoting the safety of the community."

"It's high time we got serious about sentencing in this country and the criminal justice system started putting the rights of law abiding citizens to be protected ahead of the rights of convicted criminals to be released back onto the streets without serving a proper sentence," said Mrs Schnauer.

"Bail is a concession granted to someone by the Courts which allows that accused person to keep their liberty on the presumption that they are innocent until the time of their trial. Surely the discretion to grant bail should not be exercised in circumstances where that trust is repeatedly abused and there is a history of offending while on bail.

"A key plank of ACT's Law & Order policy is the tightening up of the bail laws. An overhaul of the bail laws is long overdue," said Patricia Schnauer.

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