Law Reform

Bail Act Offences

PUBLISHED March 31, 2006

The Sentencing Advisory Panel has been asked by the Sentencing Guidelines Council to produce advice on sentencing for offences of failing to surrender to bail, contrary to section 6 (1) and section 6 (2) of the Bail Act 1976.  The deadline for responding to the consultation is 21/04/2006.

Large numbers of defendants fail to surrender to bail every year, causing disruption and inconvenience, wasting time and resources and interfering with the administration of justice. The fact that a defendant has failed to appear in court and is at large in the community causes distress to victims and witnesses and undermines public confidence in the criminal justice system. There have been a number of recent initiatives designed to ensure that more offenders are brought to justice in a timely fashion. Much can be achieved by speedy and effective enforcement and by seeking to ensure that offenders appear in court at the time and date specified. However, there will always be offenders who, for a wide variety of reasons, fail to appear at the police station or in court when required to do so and the remit of the Panel is to consider how the courts should approach sentencing in such cases.

The Panel is very interested in your views on a number of key issues. In particular, the consultation paper discusses the point at which a Bail Act offence should be sentenced, whether it should be influenced at all by the outcome of the trial for the primary offence and whether sentences should be imposed consecutively or concurrently. The paper also discusses what the courts are hoping to achieve when sentencing for a Bail Act offence and considers the types of disposal that might be appropriate. It looks at the varying degrees of culpability and harm and the extent to which the reason why the offender failed to appear, and the amount of harm intended or actually resulting from that failure, might influence sentence. Aggravating and mitigating factors are identified and sentencing starting points are proposed.