Electronically Monitored Curfews – Make sure they count
Anna O’Mara considers the use of qualifying curfews in Court proceedings, following successfully representing a client before the Court of Appeal
If the Courts are going to agree to give a defendant bail during their Court proceedings, it is becoming increasingly common for them to attach strict conditions to the bail. In serious matters, the Courts are sometimes persuaded to allow bail to a defendant, if the defendant is subject to a curfew. If a curfew is required, it is advisable that it is electronically monitored with a tagging device. This means that a defendant will lose some liberty and is effectively house-bound, often from early evening to the following morning, each and every day that they are on bail. If they breach this condition by leaving the house the police are instantly informed and the defendant will be taken into custody. Electronically monitored curfews can sometimes go on for months at a time. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 gives provisions under section 240A for the time a defendant spends on an electronically monitor curfew, i.e. a qualifying curfew, to be deducted from any sentence that may be given at the conclusion of a case, at a rate of half a day per night spent on the curfew.
The issue arose recently at a case before the Sheffield Crown Court. The defendant was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment. He was told by the Judge he had 10 months to serve in custody before he was released and then must complete the remaining 10 months of his sentence on licence. The defendant’s legal team had failed to remind the Court that the defendant had spent almost four months on a qualifying curfew. The Court had failed to apply s.240A. This could have been corrected by the Crown Court if it was raised within 56 days of the sentencing date. However, the defendant was told by his legal team that he had no grounds to appeal the sentence and having taken this advice in good faith, the 56 days had expired.
The defendant sought advice from alternative Solicitors regarding other matters. His sentence was considered and as a result the case was quickly referred to the Court of Appeal. The appeal was allowed and the Court of Appeal deducted the relevant period from the defendant’s sentence.