Tories call for tighter bail rules

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Indy Politics

Jack Straw faced calls to tighten restrictions on people facing trial yesterday after figures showed that dozens of people charged with murder were freed on bail last month.

Nick Herbert, the shadow Justice Secretary, called for action after officials confirmed that 60 out of the 455 defendants charged with murder were freed on bail at the end of January. Only six out of 41 people charged with manslaughter were held in custody. Last week the prison population rose over the 82,000 maximum capacity.

Colin Moses, chairman of the Prison Officers' Association, told the BBC: "We have the lowest morale that we have known. We have a situation where Jack Straw is asking for £60m budget cuts each year for the next three years when we are facing the biggest crisis in prisons in living memory."

Anne Owers, the chief inspector of prisons, told The Observer that the system was at "panic stations", and that staff were "struggling to survive the day".

Mr Herbert said: "After Gary Weddell murdered his mother-in-law while out on bail, the Government claimed that it was unusual for bail to be granted to murder suspects. Now we discover that a large number of people charged with murder were free on bail at that time. Tougher bail laws are needed."