Senior judges criticise plans to keep people in jail pending appeal

People convicted of crimes with a sentence of at least one year should be allowed to wait for the results of their appeal in freedom, according to senior judges.

The council for the judiciary has issued its formal recommendations on the government’s plans to jail people found guilty of a crime by the lower courts immediately, saying there is a real risk people will be wrongly jailed.

The cabinet wants to introduce immediate jail terms for people sentenced to at least a year in jail if there is a human victim. Victimless crimes would have a two-year guideline. The aim is to stop people absconding between their initial trial and the appeal.

Problems

‘People who want to avoid jail can do that by running off earlier,’ the council said in its reply to the draft legislation. ‘This measure will not solve anything.’

In addition, most people considered to be dangerous or a flight risk are already held in detention pending a ruling, the council said.

‘Every year, 2,200 people are jailed for more than one year and 85% of them are held on remand. Just 330 people are allowed to wait for the results of their appeal outside jail. No-one has examined how many of them use this freedom to avoid jail altogether,’ the council said.

The council also pointed to the European human rights treaty which says someone is innocent until proven guilty.