SNP Wants More Defendants Bailed

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Nicolson

WOMEN, single parents, teenagers and the mentally ill are to be givenpriority when it comes to granting bail.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the move was aimed at making sure peoplewere not 'clogging up' jails.

But it sparked a furious reaction from the Tories, who dismissed the plan as'absolute nonsense' and warned that the rights of the accused were now moreimportant than protecting the public.

Mr MacAskill yesterday announced an extra [pounds sterling]500,000 a year would be spent on thesupervised bail scheme, aimed at minimising the number of prisoners held onremand.

The scheme, which already costs [pounds sterling]1.2million a year, is also used to free someoffenders who have been convicted and are in jail waiting for the outcome ofbackground reports.

The extra cash will be targeted at groups such as single parents, women, thosewith mental health problems and young people aged 16-21.

Instead of being kept in prison until their trial, they could be supervised bysocial workers or other professionals.

Mr MacAskill said: 'Extending these schemes will mean that women, singleparents and those with mental health problems are not clogging up our jails. Ofcourse, the decision on whether an accused is bailed or remanded is for thecourt to make and that will remain the case.

'However, Scotland's remand population is unacceptably high, so by providingextra financial support we can help ease some of the pressure. …