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Bail dodgers face custodial sentences in new drive

28 January 2005

Defendants who skip bail could find themselves in prison, even if their original crime did not carry a custodial sentence, under a new initiative announced this week.
‘Operation Turn Up’, a joint campaign by the government and police, will see local ‘blitzes’ of defendants’ homes and workplaces by police across England and Wales in an effort to bring them to justice. Anyone found with an outstanding ‘fail to appear’ warrant will be escorted straight to court where they will be dealt with in accordance with a Practice Directive to sentencers.
The Directive was issued by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, in early 2004 and advised the court to “always consider imposing a separate penalty for the bail offence and that it should usually be custodial and consecutive to any other custodial sentence”. It also gives courts the discretion to proceed with a trial if the defendant has chosen not to appear.
Launching the Operation, the Attorney General. Lord Goldsmith, said: “My message today is that if you don’t turn up at court when you are meant to, the justice system will track you down to face justice. My advice to those who have skipped bail is to surrender now, rather than wait for the police to come and get you.”
Recent figures show that one in eight defendants fail to show up for their court cases and about 60,000 warrants are outstanding for skipped bail.

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