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Covid-19 Bail Appeal Refused

HMA v JD and BK 2020

Two men have made a bid to the Appeal court to reverse the decision to refuse them bail in light of the current COVID 19 Pandemic. The men have both had their appeal against the refusal of bail refused at the High Court. Both men were remanded after making not guilty pleas pending their trial diets in July 2019. The men are awaiting a jury trial, charged with assault and robbery. The trial was originally due to start in March 2020 but jury trials have now been suspended in Scotland or an unknown period of time.

When the matter called for trial and it was postponed due to not being able to empanel a jury the two men moved for bail and this was refused after being opposed by the crown on the basis of the men’s substantial records, potential witness interference issues and also the serious nature of the charges. JD held 90 previous convictions and BK 55; with some being of an analogous nature. Lord Carloway stated in concluding the appeal at the High Court: “In the present COVID-19 crisis, it is not known when accused persons are likely to be tried. In solemn cases, it may be several months before jury trials can be resumed. Meantime there may be an increasing number of those remanded in custody. The length of time during which a person is likely to remain on remand is a factor in deciding whether to grant bail. This factor must be given greater weight than hitherto.”…“In the ordinary case, bail must be granted except where, having regard to the public interest, notably public safety, there is a good reason to refuse bail.

The court must consider the extent to which the public interest could be protected by the use of bail conditions. A good reason may arise if there is a substantial risk of the accused: absconding or failing to appear for trial; committing further offences; and interfering with witnesses or otherwise interfering with the course of justice. Where, as here, an accused is charged with a violent offence and has a previous conviction for violence on indictment, he is only to be granted bail in exceptional circumstances. In the current crisis, the emphasis must be, albeit not exclusively, on whether bail should be refused on the grounds of public safety.” On this basis applied to this case the motion for bail was refused for both accused but it was stated that this could be revisited in the future if the matter was delayed further.

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