Justice | Numbers on repeat offences while on bail
To ask the Minister for Justice the number of persons deemed to have committed further offences while on bail in each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the restricting of a person’s liberty is a serious issue, given the Constitutional presumption that a person is deemed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
While the State’s bail laws do provide for the refusal of bail in certain circumstances, the presiding judge is entirely independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and the decision to grant bail in a particular case is solely a matter for the judge.
As the Deputy may be aware, the Bail Act 1997 followed on foot of the 1996 referendum on a proposed amendment to the Constitution enabling a court to refuse bail for a person charged with a serious offence to prevent the risk of another serious offence being committed while on bail.
Over the last twenty five years, the State’s bail laws were further strengthened, specifically by the Criminal Justice Act, 2007, the Criminal Justice Act, 2015, and the Criminal Justice Act, 2017.
In considering whether to refuse bail under the 1997 Act, the Court is required to have regard to persistent serious offending by an applicant and, in specific circumstances, the nature and likelihood of any danger to a person or to the community from granting bail.
The 2017 Act provides for stricter bail terms for repeat serious offenders, including the use of curfews and strengthens Garda powers to deal with breaches of bail. If an individual fails to comply with any bail conditions, the judge will issue a bench warrant and this gives An Garda Síochána power to arrest and bring the person before the court to answer all charges relating to the bail.
In the event of a breach of High Court bail, the defendant must be brought before the Court as soon as practicable for a revocation hearing. A breach of bail may also result in an additional charge and an order and/or surety for ‘forfeiture and estreatment’ of the bail money.
In relation to the specific information sought by the Deputy, it is important to state that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is the agency responsible for the prosecution of crime in Ireland.
Criminal investigations are carried out by An Garda Síochána, who then submit a report to the DPP. It is for the DPP to decide whether or not someone should be prosecuted and for what crime, on the basis of the Garda findings, viewed against the background of common and/or statute law. The Director is fully independent in the performance of her functions.
Furthermore, as the Deputy may be aware, the provision of figures in relation to convictions are a matter for the Courts Service. Management of the courts, operational and logistical matters are the responsibility of the Courts Service, which are independent in exercising their functions under the Courts Service Act 1998 and given the separation of powers in the Constitution. As the Deputy will be aware, I have no role in this regard.
In order to be of assistance, my Department contacted the Courts Service to see if the statistics requested by the Deputy are available. I am advised by the Courts Service that statistics are not compiled in such a way as to provide the specific information sought. However, it may be of interest to the Deputy to note that the Central Statistics Office regularly publishes both prison and probation re-offending statistics on their website www.cso.ie.
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