Bail conditions for serial criminals are set to be tightened up under new laws which will also see night curfews and electronic tagging imposed on people on temporary release.
Cabinet is expected to sign-off on the legal changes this morning due to ongoing concerns over serious and at times violent offences committed by individuals out on bail, with as many as 10,000 taking place a year.
Under existing rules, any defendant released on bail while a court case is being prepared must sign on in their local Garda station while awaiting trial.
In addition, the decision on whether to temporarily release the individual is at the discretion of the presiding judge after an application is made by the defendant’s legal team.
However, under detailed changes put forward in the Bail (Amendment) Bill 2016, the system is set to be severely limited in a bid to lessen the risk of people re-offending or interacting with alleged victims while on bail.
The bill, which has been brought forward by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, will give a court more powers to refuse bail if there is “a pattern of persistent offending by the accused”, and to impose night curfews and electronic tagging for those temporarily released if it is considered necessary.
Although the latter issue mirrors previous law changes in 2007 which have yet to be enacted, it is likely to lead to fresh criticism due to concerns about privacy rights and fears it could see a surge in costs for the State.
As such, the bill will set up a working group to examine how an electronic tagging system can be fairly monitored to avoid both concerns.
The tightening of bail rules comes after recent figures showed that 10,600 offences were committed by people temporarily released before court appearances in 2014 alone, a situation that is part of a growing trend across the country.
The 2014 figures include 2,534 involving theft and related offences, 329 attempts or threats to murder, and 256 involving robbery, extortion and hijacking.
The bail bill changes will be put forward during a Cabinet meeting which is also expected to see fresh discussion on the need for a public pay deal, Irish Water refunds and the appointment of two new members to the garda watchdog GSOC.
The meeting will also look at plans to speed up the release of State archives relating to the conflict in the North and resulting peace process in a bid to ensure Ireland’s interpretation of events is made public as files in Britain emerge.
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