The Oscar Pistorius case would have been treated very differently in this country.
Much of the world’s attention was focused last week on the South African Courts following the charging of premier Paralympian Oscar Pistorius with the murder of his partner on Valentine’s Day, and in particular, the epic hearing which resulted in order to decide whether he should be granted bail. The result? Bail granted.
Here in England and Wales, a four day hearing to decide the issue of bail is unheard of. Just a few months ago, major changes to the law relating to bail in this country were made by the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).
Since LASPO came into force, the way in which the Court has to approach bail is firstly to consider whether there is a real prospect of the Defendant receiving a custodial sentence if convicted. If there is not, they should be granted bail, albeit possibly subject to conditions, save in very limited circumstances where someone should be kept in custody for their own protection, or where there is a risk of committing offences which would be considered to be domestic violence.
If there is a realistic prospect of a custodial sentence, then the Court goes on to consider the risks in granting bail. These risks can include the commission of further offences, failing to surrender to Court, and interfering with witnesses. Conditions can be suggested in any application for bail, to meet the risks suggested, for example those of residence, reporting to the Police Station and not to contact certain witnesses.
The application for bail remains vital, as the number of occasions on which someone can apply is still limited. The overall effect of this new piece of legislation does mean that it is now in effect, much harder for adults charged with less serious offences to be remanded in custody. Even so, the need for applications for bail to be carefully considered remains, as even without a four day hearing, the relief and importance of getting them right can be only too well demonstrated by the Pistorius case.
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