Suspects freed on bail carry two murders EVERY week


Last updated at 00:27 24 March 2008

Two murders are committed every week by criminals freed on bail, figures revealed yesterday.

It means more than one in five killings is carried out by a suspect released by the courts.

The revelations led to demands last night for tighter restrictions on the use of bail.

Courts are under pressure to use the measure because of chronic prison overcrowding.

But critics said lives would have been saved if the suspects had been remanded to custody instead.

Nick Herbert, the Tory justice spokesman, said: "These shocking figures underline the need for tighter bail laws.

"Too many defendants are receiving an automatic presumption in favour of bail, when their previous crimes mean that they should expect to be held in custody.

"Public safety must come first."

The figures emerged from a series of Freedom of Information requests to the 51 police forces.

Only 34 managed to produce figures, but these revealed suspects on bail were responsible for 79 out of 462 murder cases.

If, as expected, the figures are replicated for the remaining forces, it would give a total of more than 100 killings by suspects who could have been behind bars.

In Avon and Somerset, almost half of those charged with murder in 2007 - eight out of 17 - were on bail.

In West Midlands, six of the 40 suspects were on bail.

Police are furious that criminals they have already caught are being freed so regularly to strike again.

Those killed by suspects on bail include father- of-three Garry Newlove, who was kicked to death outside his home in Warrington by drunken thugs.

His killer Adam Swellings, 19, had been freed from custody earlier the same day.

Last week, a court heard how pub landlord Steven Galsworthy, 41, was stabbed to death in Bournemouth by a thug on bail.

Alan Gordon, vice chairman of the Police Federation, said: "There are systemic failures in the judicial and sentencing process that need to be urgently addressed.

"The Government must not allow a lack of prison places to dictate safety on our streets."

The figures will add to the controversy over the use of bail for dangerous suspects.

Last month, it emerged 60 murder suspects are walking the streets after being granted bail by the courts.

They represent one in eight - or 13 per cent - of those currently charged with the crime.

The numbers spared jail on remand for manslaughter cases are even more dramatic.

The 35 suspects on bail represent 85 per cent of those currently charged. Only six were in custody.

The figures also follow alarm over the decision to grant bail to the policeman Gary Weddell, suspected of murdering his wife.

The decision left the 47-year-old free to kill his mother-in-law before turning the gun on himself.

Courts have been urged to make the greatest possible use of bail.

One option available to them is to allow suspects to go free wearing an electronic tag.

Officials are desperate to find ways of reducing the prison population, which stands at just under 82,000 with only a few hundred spaces remaining.

Last month the Government officially ran out of cells for the first time before the situation improved.

The Ministry of Justice said there were 82,068 inmates - 96 over the Prison Service's 'usable operational capacity' which includes police and court cells.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: 'We do not comment on individual cases.

"Whether or not to grant bail is an independent judicial decision.

"However, we are looking at the implications of recent cases on bail law and procedure and if any changes in the law are necessary, we will make them."

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