Why do paedophiles get bail?

Ryan Trevor Clegg was a member of a paedophile ring and pleaded guilty in WA to 61 counts of child sexual abuse.

He was released back into the community while awaiting sentencing and was then found to be living within 100 metres of a childcare centre.

Clegg is now back in custody after surety for his bail was revoked. But at least two of the seven men implicated in the abuse ring remain on bail as their cases progress through the courts.

So why are people who have pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse released on bail?

The WA Bail Act is not explicit

According to WA's Criminal Lawyers Association President Genevieve Cleary, if someone's entered a plea of guilty, there's no real assumption one way or another within the laws governing bail in Western Australia.

The Bail Act is not explicit, she said, and allowed judges and magistrates to weigh factors such as risk to the community, whether they would interfere with witnesses, would they hinder an investigation, and whether they would go on to commit further offences.

"There are many reasons why you wouldn't go into custody," Ms Cleary said.

"You might have children that you need to make arrangements for, you might have to wind up a business, put something in place in relation to a business.

"It's always a discretion. The only time there is no discretion is in relation to a homicide, or a murder."

But what about serious offences?

The Bail Act 1982 only specifies that bail for those accused of murder be considered differently to all other crimes.

Section 15 of the act specifies that only a Supreme Court judge may grant bail.

However, with offences that warrant a jail term, certain factors are weighed.

"The practice is that if you've pleaded guilty to an offence, and imprisonment is either completely inevitable or realistically the only option that's going to be available to the court in penalty, then you may as well start your term now," Ms Cleary said.

She said the sentence could be backdated, and there was also a sense that if you pleaded guilty and were looking at a jail term you became a higher flight risk.

What usually happens in court?

But even with more serious charges, people do not automatically go into custody.

"There is an assumption, it's not a right, that people are entitled to go about their business in the community until they are actually sentenced," she said.

There are also practical implications.

"If the prosecution got up and said that they want bail refused on everyone, our jails would be very full to completely overcrowded," she said.

The decision is not made lightly.

"The prosecutor, the defence council, and the judge or magistrate will have seriously considered all of the options in relation to releasing someone on bail," she said.

"It's not automatic, particularly when ... you have a plea of guilty to a very serious offence."

It should be noted while laws may  be differing between state to state and territories, in most cases there is some uniformity of criminal cases

Source: ABC News

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