Exclusive: ‘Scandal’ of 8,000 offenders freed on bail to commit further crimes

James Allen
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MORE than 8,000 offenders committed crimes in Yorkshire while on bail last year, making it one of the worst areas for reoffending in the country, damning figures have revealed.

A total of 8,198 offenders were convicted of a new crime in the region while on bail in 2011, 5,768 of which are recorded as indictable offences – the most serious that can be committed.

According to the Ministry of Justice, only the North West and London recorded more crimes committed by repeat offenders.

The figures come after it emerged James Allen, who was jailed last month for the horrific killings of an 81-year-old pensioner and a disabled woman in
Whitby, was on bail for an alleged sex attack at the time of the murders.

Police say Allen, 37, who had a long and violent criminal history, had been released on court bail despite facing charges of rape and sexual assault.

Mr Justice Openshaw said the killings of Colin Dunford and Whitby charity worker Julie Davison were committed with “quite exceptional brutality and savagery”.

Nationally, an average of three offenders per month were
convicted of murder while already on bail for another crime last 
year.

Nearly 40 criminals were found guilty of killing a member of the public while still at large in 2011, with 436 murders over the past 12 years being committed by someone on bail.

A further 180 crimes are committed by offenders every day while on bail, according to statistics from the Ministry of Justice, with 65,627 people convicted in 2011.

Shipley Conservative MP Phillip Davies said the problem could spiral in the coming years due to the new Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act introduced this year, making it more difficult for the courts to remand alleged offenders in custody. “It is an absolute scandal,” he said.

“These will be criminals who have been arrested by the police, put before the courts, and then let out to continue their crime spree. James Allen is an extreme but not unique example.

“Where somebody is charged with serious sexual offences they absolutely should be remanded in custody. Whoever decided to let him out should hang their heads in shame.

Mr Davies added: “These figures show that there are thousands of unnecessary victims of crime in Yorkshire, with 10 per cent of all crimes in the country committed by people
who are on bail and 20 per cent of burglaries. It is a damning indictment of the criminal justice system.”

The total number of murders committed by those on bail has risen on average over the past decade, with 25 in 2002 compared with 37 in 2011. In 2007, 50 people were murdered by someone on bail.

Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz has called for a review of the country’s bail laws in response to the figures.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “Dangerous offenders who pose a threat to society should always be remanded
into custody while they await 
trial.

“To strengthen this, the Government recently changed the law
to allow prosecutors to challenge a Crown Court bail decision where they feel a potentially
dangerous prisoner could be bailed.

“The decision to grant bail is taken by the police and courts based on the full facts of each case.

“They take extreme care, particularly when making decisions about cases involving violent crimes.

“The overwhelming majority of people bailed do not reoffend and are often given strict conditions such as electronic tags and curfews.

“Anyone who reoffends while on bail will usually receive a longer sentence as a result.”

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has led new calls for the Government to adopt an “enlightened” approach to dealing with criminals, setting out plans for a major extension of mentoring provided by voluntary groups and private companies on a payment-by-results basis.

Meanwhile Prime Minister David Cameron has demanded a “rehabilitation revolution” under which virtually all prisoners receive help breaking the cycle of reoffending.

Currently only those who are jailed for more than a year are given rehabilitation, but the Prime Minister wants all but a small number of high-risk prisoners to receive support by the end of 2015.