Providing our clients with legal defence
in the UK for over four decades
Mary Monson Solicitors have successfully applied for bail over a thousand times for clients in both the Magistrates Court and on serious matters in the Crown Court such as high level drugs cases, and even offences of serious violence.
Our client was accused of importation of heroin with a street value of over £2,000,000. There was telephone evidence linking him to two other defendants, one of whom had been found with traces of class ‘A’ substances on his clothing.
Our bail application included an offer of money to be paid to court to guarantee his attendance at hearings, and a robust attack on the credibility of “unreliable and greed-motivated” prosecution witnesses.
Bail during court proceedings is presumed to be something that a defendant is entitled to except in certain circumstances. The prosecution can only make an objection before a defendant is convicted if one or more of three conditions are met. These grounds for refusing bail are:
A court will usually look at the following factors when deciding whether the defendant is likely to not appear to answer his or her bail:
Evidence of previous "bail offences" might show this, and this is information that will often be available on the previous convictions printout of the defendant that the court will have. If there is a bad bail attendance record, convincing explanations of what happened on those occasions and reasons why they are less significant than they seem have to be presented to the court.
It is often harder for immigrants to get bail when accused of imprisonable offences, because Judges are concerned that they will simply return to their native country to avoid conviction. Similarly, if a defendant's lifestyle has an international element, ties to family and financial interests in the UK need to be shown to show that relocation to a different country is unlikely.
This is not an official reason for a court to not grant bail, but for serious offences, the theory is that if the evidence is strong then so is the chance of a long prison sentence, and therefore the chance of the defendant not turning up to court is higher. This argument can be the single most problematic for any application for bail where a serious offence such as, for example, murder or armed robbery.
A court will be less likely to give bail where there is a recent history of offending while on bail for other offences. Again, the court will have access to this information through the defendant's previous convictions printout (or Antecedents). The court will be less concerned if the previous offences are not of a similar or equally serious category to the offence charged. If someone is charged with robbery, but has previous offences committed while on bail for driving whilst disqualified, a good defence team will ask the court to give the previous offences less weight.
The prosecution can object to bail on the grounds that keeping the defendant in prison will prevent him or her from interfering with prosecution witnesses, i.e. to stop them giving evidence in the trial, or getting them to change their evidence. This has to be argued on the facts, and is more likely to prevent bail if the defendant knows or has contact with the witnesses in question. In some cases threats and intimidation are part of the allegations, and this can make it easier for the prosecution to claim that witnesses are likely to be interfered with if the defendant is granted bail.
The court can make a requirement that the defendant live at a certain address, often away from the alleged victim in the case. This can potentially ease the court’s concerns about the possibility of all three of the potential bail objections because:
This allows the police to keep aware of the rough location of a defendant as they will have to report to a police station three or more times per week. This means that the police will be made aware quickly if they abscond.
Surety and security are two important tools for a bail application for any serious offence. They are financial assurances made to the court usually by family members of the defendant, to guarantee his or her attendance at court whilst on bail.
Security is money paid into court before the defendant is allowed out on bail.
This must be paid into court in cash or other cleared funds.
Surety is money promised to the court by third parties (e.g. family members), and only paid if the defendant does not answer his bail or turn up to court.
This can be in the form of money left in the third party’s bank account, or other assets (such as equity in a house).
Documentary evidence must be provided to the court showing that this money is available, or that assets equivalent to that amount exist. This could be in the form of a bank statement or a mortgage statement accompanied by a house valuation.
A good bail application for a serious Crown Court offence (e.g. murder, drug importation etc.) will include a combination of both security (money paid) and surety (money promised). The precise amount required varies, but must be a good proportion of the assets of the person providing the asset / money. The amount offered needs to be enough that it would financially hurt the provider if the defendant did not answer his bail.
This is something that should be offered wherever the alleged victim is said to have suffered in any type of attack, or where there are already allegations of any interference with witnesses, or a possibility of it. Cases which involve intimidation such as blackmail or allegations of threatening behaviour etc. are relevant here. A condition of non-contact with prosecution witnesses is often not enough on its own to secure bail, but can be necessary along with other conditions to achieve freedom before trial for the defendant.
Of course, it is not the case that simply because the prosecution can raise an objection to bail, that means that the Judge will not grant bail. A good defence team will prepare a bail application which will predict that the prosecution will raise certain objections and answer them in advance by being prepared to attack them and offering the judge bail conditions. This can increase the chance of bail being granted, and "short-circuit" the prosecution objections.
As with most legal work of any description, there is no substitute for a thoroughly prepared application. Good preparation of a bail application will raise avenues of inquiry that solicitors should follow to firm up. For most Crown Court cases, the defendant will only have one chance to make a bail application, so every piece of background supporting evidence has to be presented to the court, and the notice of application sent to the court before the hearing must include all the supporting documentation. If an important document relating to, say, a mortgage statement for a surety is not provided at this stage, there may not be a second chance. This may delay the application. It can be sometimes be unpleasant but essential that the application waits a few days so that the defendant does not spend several months in custody after an unsuccessful bail application.
Bail is not a foregone conclusion for any serious offences, and applications must be treated with care and meticulously prepared.
If you have a family member or friend who is currently in custody or needs legal assistance anywhere in England or Wales, please contact us on freephone 0808 155 4870 and ask to speak to a solicitor in our London, Manchester, Salford or Birmingham offices.
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