Letter: Bail conditions

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The Independent Culture
Sir: You report on Dr Mandeep Dhami's address to the British Psychological Society under the headline "JPs inconsistent on bail decisions" (17 December). I was one of the magistrates who participated in Dr Dhami's survey. I do not consider Dr Dhami's conclusions fair, for the following reasons.

Lay magistrates sit in threes and not as individuals; decisions are therefore based on a consensus of views after all the circumstances have been heard, before it is decided whether or not to grant bail.

There are clear, strict guidelines on the granting or refusal of bail, particularly when bail is refused. Also, when conditional bail is granted, conditions are only imposed to ensure that the defendant appears in court and that nothing is said or done to interfere with potential witnesses or the victim. Each case is judged on its individual merits, considering the nature and seriousness of the offence, the possible way it will be dealt with and the views of the Crown Prosecution Service, the police and the defendant or his solicitor.

Dr Dhami's opinion on consistency does not reflect what we actually do when we sit as a tribunal. Surveys such as this may get Dr Dhami an audience at the Psychological Society's conference, but will not secure co-operation from people such as myself in the future. Before commencing any study, Dr Dhami should observe the subjects or institutions in action; hopefully a more objective result would emerge.

DAVID WILDING JP

Bridge, Kent

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