Sunday, August 13, 2006

Bail Pending Appeal

I recently represented a Client who pleaded guilty to an offence, due to the Client's previous convictions and the nature of the offence he had committed he was always at risk of being given a prison sentence. I explained to the Court the Clients personal circumstances and suggested if the Court considered taking action that was more serious that a conditional discharge then they should ask the Probation Service to prepare a pre-sentence report. The Magistrates retired and then came back in to Court saying that they wanted to deal with the case now and that they were thinking of imposing a sentence that could include prison.

It is not often that a bench of lay Magistrates will give an indication that they want to send someone to prison without first obtaining a presentence report. Unfortunately my client had previously been sent to prison, albeit a number of years ago, and I was therefore forced to deal with the case on the spot. I gave the Court full details of my Clients mitigation and the bench again retired.

During the time that the bench were out the Clerk of the Court asked if I was going to apply for bail pending appeal. It was strange of the Clerk to give the indication that she did as it meant that my Client was going to be sent to prison. I spoke with my Client and he said that if he was going to be given a prison sentence then he wanted to appeal against the sentence and apply for bail. I then drafted a notice of appeal and waited for the bench to come back.

The Magistrates decided to send my Client to prison. Once they had finished their pronouncement on sentence I stood up and explained that my Client was appealing against their sentence and I was applying for bail on his behalf pending an appeal being resolved at the Crown Court. The Magistrates listened to my bail application which was very simple: you have given a man a prison sentence when you have given his personal circumstances insufficient consideration. I basically told the Magistrates that they should give my Client bail because they were wrong to send him to prison. The Clerk of the Court explained to the bench that they should only grant bail pending an appeal in exceptional circumstances, this advice was spot on and correct.

The Magistrates retired and returned, and for some crazy reason they gave my Client bail pending his appeal. This means that despite deciding in the hearing that my Client deserved to go the prison they reversed their logic when granting bail.

I think that the logic in the decision was actually that the custody staff had gone home for the day and had the Court really wanted to send my Client to prison they would have asked him to wait whilst they arranged for a van to pick him up.

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