Call us today on 0141 552 9193
GLP News

News, Comment & Opinions on the latest legal stories

Glasgow Law Practice White

Practice made perfect

Prosecution service bail review

The prosecution service in Scotland has reviewed its general approach to opposing bail in criminal cases.

The focus on public and victim protection has been further strengthened ensuring that is the paramount consideration, whilst also managing risks such as the accused absconding or not turning up for court hearings and recognising the important part that bail decisions play in the efficiency of the criminal justice system as a whole.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) carried out its internal bail review in consultation with victims groups and criminal justice partners in May of this year. The COPFS regularly reviews its processes to ensure the delivery of an efficient prosecution service.

The Court is responsible for deciding on bail and bail conditions. The four key principles for the Crown to oppose bail and to assist the Court with bail decisions are:

  • Public protection and personal safety. In this category the risk the accused poses to particular victims or the public in general is the paramount consideration. This will apply in particular to cases of violent, sexual offences and other offences against the person such as domestic abuse and stalking.
  • Public Protection – offences that impact on the public and communities. The category includes offences that have both a direct and indirect effect on communities and the public- offences which fall to be considered under this heading include drug trafficking offences, public disorder and theft by housebreaking. The risk of re-offending which could cause harm to others and the public is the critical assessment to be undertaken for offences which fall within this category.
  • Propensity to Re-offend. This category includes offences which have direct and indirect impact on communities including economic impact. Offences which often fall into this category include offences of dishonesty such as theft by shoplifting and car theft. The level of risk of re-offending is the critical assessment to be undertaken by the prosecutor when considering the question of bail for these types of offending.
  • Propensity to breach court orders/risk of absconding. The risk the accused poses relates to the bringing of the administration of justice into disrepute due to delays in court hearings causing distress and inconvenience to victims and witnesses. Disregard of orders of the court has the potential to undermine the due administration of justice and public confidence. The level of risk of re-offending and failing to co-operate with the criminal justice system are the critical assessments to be undertaken when considering bail.

The new guidance for prosecutors is contained in a confidential ‘Bail Manual’ issued for use by lawyers in COPFS and was prepared with assistance and input from the Police, Scottish Government and victims groups including: Rape Crisis; Scottish Woman’s Aid; and Victim Support Scotland.