STATUTES

Publication Date01 Sep 1977
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1977.tb02443.x
AuthorNigel P. Gravells
STATUTES
BAIL ACT 1976
A Home Office Working Party was appointed in 1971
to review
practice and procedure in magistrates’ courts relating to the grant
or refusal of bail and to make recommendations.” Their Report
was published in 1974, and the Bail Act 1976 was enacted to give
effect to the recommendations contained thereinz The 1974 Report,
and by implication the Bail Act 1976 in
so
far as it implements that
Report, has already been subjected to examination and criticism
3;
and
on
balance it has received qualified, albeit sometimes sub-
stantially qualified, approval. Much
of
the criticism which the
Report has attracted has, quite justifiably, been directed against
the restrictive terms of reference of the Working Party in that the
review was confined to the operation of the present bail system and
any reconsideration
of
bail in the context of the criminal process
as
a
whole was excluded; but it is submitted that within that limited
scope the Bail Act 1976 will effect some useful and substantial
reforms in bail procedures.
The Act seeks to implement
a
more liberal bail policy by estab-
lishing, within the framework of the present bail system,
a
new
code of practice for the determination of bail applications. To that
extent, it is submitted that the provisions are largely coherent and
practicable, that the courts will be required to exercise their dis-
cretion in relation to bail decisions
on
the basis of specified and
clearly defined principles, that such clarification of the principles
governing the grant or refusal of bail, coupled with other provisions
of the Act, will ensure that in future remands in custody are based
on
stronger grounds and more information than has often been the
case in the past, and that the means
of
possible abuses of the system
will for the most part be eradi~ated.~
1
Bail Procedures in Magistrates’ Courts, Report of the Home Office Working
Party,
1974.
2
The Act has not yet been brought into force; although the circular issued by
the Home Secretary
in
October
1975
(HOC
155/1975),
designed to promote
a
more
liberal approach to bail applications and
lo
implement
as
a
matter
of
practice
those recommendations of the Working Party which did not require legislation,
remains operative.
3
King
[1974]
Crim.L.R.
451;
Wright
[19741
Crim.L.R.
457;
Galligan
(1975)
38
M.L.R.
59;
White
119771
Crim.L.R.
338.
4
Two recent cases illustrate certain questionable features of the present law
and practice relating to bail. The first case concerned some of the persons involved
in the “free George Davis” campaign
of
1975:
three men were charged with
conspiring to damage the cricket pitch during the Headingley test match between
England and Australia. The police objected to bail on two principal grounds,
namely (i) that the defendants might commit further offences while on bail, and
fii) that they might interfere with witnesses. Further offences seemed improbable
since the campaign had now achieved the desired nationwide publicity; more-
over, the defendants undertook not to indulge in any further action. Secondly, it is
difficult to see who the witnesses referred to could be. Nonetheless bail was repeatedly
refused. The conclusion can hardly be avoided that, notwithstanding continual
56
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